Author: Andy Mulligan
Publisher: David Fickling Books (Random House Children's Books)
Category: Young Adult
Release Date: September 2010
Source: Received for review from Random House
ARC: 211 pages
Summary from Amazon:
Raphael is a dumpsite boy. He spends his days wading through mountains of steaming trash, sifting it, sorting it, breathing it, sleeping next to it. Then one unlucky-lucky day, Raphael's world turns upside down. A small leather bag falls into his hands. It's a bag of clues. It's a bag of hope. It's a bag that will change everything. Soon Raphael and his friends Gardo and Rat are running for their lives. Wanted by the police, it takes all their quick-thinking, fast-talking to stay ahead. As the net tightens, they uncover a dead man's mission to put right a terrible wrong. It's three street-boys against the world...
I know I am over-excited by any book I read, and I know I always say I love a book and that everyone should read it. I know that. But right now, when I am going to say what I am going to say about this book, you need to forget anything I have ever said on any book I ever reviewed on this blog.
I may love werewolves, fantasy, dystopian universes, funky writing styles and kick-ass heroines but all of this is irrelevant and superfluous. If you read one book this year, just a single one, make sure you read Trash.
The story takes place in a poor developing country in an unnamed South American country. Raphael Fernandez lives in a slum and his only income comes from the trash where he might find something valuable (mostly not) or just pile the plastic and get paid (not a lot). He is not the only one, hundreds, thousands of other people live this way in his country (and in others).
One day, he finds a bag with something inside that will change his world most completely. With his friends Gardo and Rat (his real name being Jun-Jun) he goes to find out exactly what it is he found in this bag. And what he'll find will be something much, much bigger than he ever thought and which will endanger his life.
The story is told from the alternate point of view of Raphael, Gardo, Rat and other characters where each writes a chapter after the events have taken place to recount what happened to them. It was a fascinating way of discovering this story. You will find serious conversations and heart-breaking moments. You will also read little bickerings between the boys to prove who is the most courageous or smartest and I found they were the sweetest things.
I have to admit that I fell for the character of Rat in the first pages where he appeared. I wanted to just drop everything, take a plane ticket and go to Behala to hold him in my arms. Raphael and Gardo have both lost their parents, but they still have uncles or aunts or someone they could claim as family. Rat doesn't have anyone and lives by himself in the slum with rats for sole company (hence the nickname). He is even bullied by the other kids in the slum for being different. You also see how the slum is organised and how the local Mission to help kids get out of this situation works. The story is amazing but the whole context of the book is done brilliantly giving you a panorama of what life is like there.
And do you know what is beautiful and sad at the same time? It's that it doesn't even feel like a fiction book. This situation where kids are left to live in trash while their political leaders live in extreme wealth has existed, still exists and will undoubtedly continue to exist. It is so easy to close your eyes and not look at the millions of images of poor children in developing countries. So easy to look away from what is happening to the majority of the world population. Andy Mulligan not only makes us look at these kids but he makes see how wrong we are to ignore them. They have strictly nothing and yet they have everything: courage, wit, strength, faith, loyalty and honesty (not in the not-telling-lies kind of way). These kids are made of awesome.
The book isn't only about poverty. It is also about the disparity which exists between the two extremes (poorest and richest) in the population. The governments or some leaders get millions from international companies, international organisations and from exploiting their fellow countrymen while thousands of people live in inhuman and inhumane conditions. Some courageous persons try to speak and change the situation but they usually die young. The violence is extreme and the democracy is clearly just a name. It is a pity nothing more is done on our part, really. I liked the fact that this story could be universal because no emphasis was put on a precise country.
I can't tell you how fantastic this book is, you really need to read it to see for yourself. I won't disclose much of the plot (i.e. tell you what is in the bag) nor emphasize on all the qualities of the book because it is a book which you will enjoy reading, where you will learn things and which will make you think. We definitely need more books like this.
Thank you so much to David Fickling Books and Random House for publishing this amazing book and sending me a copy!