Review Blog

Sep 19 2010

Trash by Andy Mulligan

cover image

David Fickling Books, 2010.
(Ages 12+) Highly Recommended. Raphael, Gardo and Rat live among the stinking rubbish tips of Behala, a fictional city based on the Philippine capital, Manila. They scratch a living sifting through trash in search of rubbish they can use or sell on. When Raphael discovers a wallet containing money, a key and a letter it is the money that excites him initially. However the next day the tip is swarming with police whose menacing enquiries regarding the wallet alert the boys to its significance.
They discover that the letter has been written by Jose Angelico whose father has spent years in prison for attempting to uncover the truth behind the vice president's personal fortune. In grave danger, the three boys begin to uncover the mystery of the letter and the key, which leads them to government corruption at the highest level.
This is a fast paced adventure coupled with a moving account of friendship and the horrors of poverty. The title is significant; the boys sift through trash, but to the authorities the boys and their families are also trash, to be used and disposed of with total indifference. Raphael's ordeal at the hands of the police is brutal and horrific. Mulligan's writing is truly mesmeric.
This is a cleverly structured novel, told from various viewpoints and it doesn't waste a word. With an exciting plot, and a powerful and ultimately uplifting message this would be perfect as a class reader for lower secondary children.
There are parallels with Melvin Burgess's novel, The Baby and Fly Pie - although that had a fictional setting in a London of the future. Mulligan's story is based on his experiences among street children of Manila which provides a strong air of authenticity. Fabulous stuff, I couldn't put it down, and it's almost worth reading just for that eureka moment when, right at the end of the story, you realise the significance of the cover illustration!
Claire Larson

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