Andy Mulligan\’s Trash is striking from the opening sentence. Fourteen-year-old Raphael and his best friend Gardo are trash boys. They live and work at Behala dumpsite, where they make a living by sorting through rubbish for valuable commodities like rubber and glass. Then they make an unexpected find and the adventure begins. Early in the book, we read about someone “shot to pieces in a taxi” and the suspense starts to build. Of course, the book is even more touching and horrifying because we know that places like the story\’s Behala dumpsite exist in real life.
The action moves so fast that things are happening in a number of different places at once. The author uses a clever technique to handle the pace and the numerous plot developments: he swaps narrators. Usually when this is done, there are only a couple of characters who share the storytelling, but in Trash, there are several. The author is unable to be everywhere at once, but his characters are. It takes a very good writer, like Mulligan, to do this effectively, so that the voices of the characters are sufficiently different. The author did this so well that at times I felt like the characters were in the room with me, each one stepping forward to talk to me.
All of the characters were written so distinctly that the reader does not forget who is narrating. Raphael is innocent, while Gardo is tougher and more mature. Rat, so nicknamed because he lives among rodents, is clever and vulnerable. As I turned to a section narrated by an adult, I was sceptical: adult characters in a book for children? But it worked. Normally I tend to get fond of one character and find myself skipping pages until I locate him or her again, but all of Mulligan\’s narrators are so appealing, I enjoyed them all.
The book is a children\’s adventure story with a mystery to solve, and a tale with an adult message about justice, greed and corruption. It\’s about the lies people tell to protect themselves, their friends, and their secrets, and the lies they tell to use, betray and defeat others. However, the book also shows us courage, generosity and the extraordinary lengths people will go to fight injustice and make wrongs right. This is a book for teenagers and adults: horrifying, intriguing, humorous, nail bitingly exciting, and moving. Definitely worth reading!
Available now: Random House RRP$17.95