Series: No, standalone
UK Publisher: Random House Children's Publishers
UK Release date: 2011
Genre: Children's / MG
Kindly given by the publisher for an honest review
In an unnamed Third World country, in the not-so-distant future, three "dumpsite boys" make a living picking through the mountains of garbage on the outskirts of a large city.
One unlucky-lucky day, Raphael finds something very special and very mysterious. So mysterious that he decides to keep it, even when the city police offer a handsome reward for its return. That decision brings with it terrifying consequences, and soon the dumpsite boys must use all of their cunning and courage to stay ahead of their pursuers. It's up to Raphael, Gardo, and Rat--boys who have no education, no parents, no homes, and no money--to solve the mystery and right a terrible wrong.
Trash is written from the perspective of three young boys: Raphael, Gardo and Rat. They live in extreme poverty, trawling everyday through rubbish and collecting what can be used or sold from a huge dumpsite. Raphael's unabashed account of how they search through faeces looking for something of value instantly made me feel so sad. With the additional accounts from Father Julliard, Sister Olivia and Grace, it makes the story a truly believable account. But it also heartbreaking. How could a country's leaders allow its people and children to live in such squallor? Unfortunately it happens in many third world countries, and Andy Mulligan based the dumpsite on a visit to Manila, and it really brings home how other people live and survive in the world.
Life for the boys is pretty bleak until they discover this exciting and dangerous bag. At last there is some hope in their lives. But it brings so much danger with it. The plot twisted and turned as the boys risked everything on what they might find, and when Raphael was taken to the police station for some very questionable 'questioning', I was really scared for the little boy. But each of the boys surprises you in them determination to not give in. They are three little survivors.
Each of the boys had a distinct voice and character. Raphael was more innocent and childlike of the three, able to win anyone with his smile; Gardo was the protector, looking after Raphael; and Rat was a little enigma. Rat really caught my attention because he described himself as ugly with his broken teeth, got his name from living with rats, and had no family to look after him. And yet underneath the lost and ugly exterior, he was smart, tough and cunning. Despite all the odds against the boys, I really wanted them win out and triumph over the evil police and politicians.
There is an ongoing theme of morals in this book. Not only are the police corrupt and unafraid to kill, but politicians and leaders are bent, taking money from their own people who live in stark poverty. It made me so cross, and as I could see what was coming in the plot I couldn't help but smile. The actions and decisions of the boys, starting with keeping the bag to themselves, is also up for scrutiny. But honestly I don't think anyone would blame the boys of any wrong doing once they've seen how they live.
Trash is a heartbreaking and hopeful account of three friends that find a miracle in amongst the rubbish.