on 10 April 2012
One day, whilst he is out sorting through the dumpsite just like he does on any other day, Raphael discovers a bag. The bag contains a wallet with 1100 pesos and some pictures in and a key. It is a discovery that will change the life of Raphael, and that of his friends Gardo and Rat forever.
This book was removed from the Blue Peter Book Award shortlist last year for being too violent and containing a swear word. This hasn't put the judges on the Carnegie panel off as it finds itself on the shortlist for that award this year. I wasn't really expecting to enjoy this book. I had heard very good things about it but it just didn't seem like the kind of book that I normally would want to pick up, but then that's part of the beauty of the Carnegie Award, the chance to discover books you normally wouldn't read. But I did enjoy this book. It tells of a world so totally different to the one we inhabit that I couldn't resist finding out more. I was drawn into the world of these three dumpsite boys who had so little in a material sense, but were happy none the less. Although the general premise of the story is betrayal and corruption I actually found the story quite heart warming. The ending however is quite simplistic and not all that believable, but this is a story designed for children not adults so that shouldn't matter as much.
The story is told from a multitude of first person point of views, people recounting their part of the story afterwards in order to form a book. This is actually very effective as you don't just get the story of the three dumpsite boys, but that of the people who helped them. It also contributes to the fast paced feeling of the book. It's one of those books where you suddenly find that you are halfway through but don't really feel as though you have read that much yet. There is almost continuous action with very little downtime, but this is handled well and you, as a reader don't feel over faced. I don't think this will be my winner, though as this is the first that I've read that may change, whilst it is very enjoyable it didn't have the wow feeling for me.
Verdict: Fast paced and filled with tension yet at the same time has that feel good factor. A very enjoyable way to while away a couple of hours.
Even before I read Trash, I knew it will be one of those book that has a strong, immediate connection to me. As a child, I often spent my summer holidays in Manila, where the plot was loosely based. While reading, I came to find out just how much the characters, language and particularly the setting reminded me of the Philippines. But it is not its mere familiarity that made me love this book, it's the way the plot is reminiscent of some of the ugly reality in many, many places, and the brutal honesty in which this fact is presented.
The three characters, Raphael, Gardo and Rat, predominantly tell the story, although in certain key chapters other characters add their own input. The criss-crossing of narratives present different viewpoints which only adds to the magnetism of the whole book. These various point of views gives a broader viewpoint, I think, and allows the narrative to encompass a larger picture to drive home the plot.
I love these three boys - there is something about a child's voice that really captures my heart, but hearing their story is something beyond that. They have suffered so much from the cruel reality and their innocence is so tainted by the harsh world they were born in that each of their words seem too precious to not take to heart. Their excitement and despair is full of that powerful voice that I wanted to sweep them three into one warm hug and hope that that somehow brings enough comfort. I think that holds true in many readers and indeed makes one wonder that if these characters can hold one's heart, then what more the real children living in and with trash at the other side of the world?
Interestingly, many view Trash as a dystopian novel - but I beg to disagree. How can it be a futuristic novel when there are children living, eating, breathing trash? When there is widespread corruption by officials high and low and inhumane abuses in the hands of those who are supposed to protect? When children like Raphael, Gardo and Rat barely survive the next dawn and are in constant danger of dying a cruel, cruel death - of famine, war and diseases? No, Trash is not a dystopian novel. It's a moving, poignant novel about the here and the now. It's a story of the ugly reality.
There was the minor glitch of me not feeling wholly satisfied by the ending. It does not seem to fit well with the plot, although it still makes sense. I will not go into further details for fear of spoilers, but after reading, I wished the ending was a little less smooth and a little more thrilling.
Regardless, Trash is a book everyone should read. I mean it - everyone! No one can read this and say he (or she) did not take anything away from it. Andy Mulligan's Trash is one of those books that shows a picture of exactly how life is in places we don't know, but we should care about.
A novel for younger readers, ideally boys aged eleven and up. But also well capable of being enjoyed by readers of an older age.
Not the usual type of children's book. No cosy fantasy tale, this. Instead it's a portrayal of the kind of life many children in latin american countries face. Living by a rubbish dump. Trying to get by via what they can find and sell there. Being wary of corrupt local police. And daring to dream of something better.
Written in the first person it runs for just over two hundred pages, in rather short chapters. And it has three main characters. Three boys who live on the tip. The young and slightly naive Raphael. His more hardbitten and world wise friend Gardo and their associate Rat. When Raphael finds a wallet in the tip containing a lot of money and a key, they quickly find the police are after it as well. The hunt is on for a fabulous horde....
It uses the three as narrators, the viewpoint constantly switching back and forth between them. The whole thing being presented as a record of their accounts having been put together by a priest who also narrates some of the story. As do a few other characters. Some don't get much of a look but a western european charity worker, another of them, does. She and the priest are very sympathetic and three dimensional characters. As are the boys.
The whole book doesn't pull any punches in depicting the horrors of the way they have to live and the horrors of being interrogated by the local police. But you have to get past that because this sort of thing really does go on in so many places so credit the writer for not shying away from it.
The plot unfolds nicely revealing steadily details about the aforementioned hidden horde, and allowing for a good puzzle involving a clever bit of code making also.
An inspiring book. One to make you think. And a really good read with it. Highly recommended.
on 4 January 2015
Andy Mulligan has written many amazing novels such as The Ribblestrop trilogy and The Boy with two heads. Mulligan has also written the award winning Trash which won The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. Trash is a rollercoaster of emotions packed into one book with twists and turns along the way.
The main characters, Raphael, Guardo and Rat (JunJun), are three teenage dumpsite boys who live and work in Behala. Day by day searching through trash hoping to find something lucky. Raphael is “A trash boy with style” whilst Rat is “fast but sneaky, dirty but charming” and Guardo is “strong and protective” around his friends and his family.
One unlucky-lucky day, their world turns upside down. A small leather bag falls into their 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 are running for their lives. Hounded by the police, it takes all their quick-thinking and fast-talking to stay ahead. And then it's three street-boys against the world...
One of the many things that makes this book unique and different is the constant change in narrator. At the start of each chapter it starts with “Its Guardo here” or “Its Raphael, now here is my part of the story”. This helps the reader understand the story more and see the story from different points of view.
Trash is an exciting story with engaging characters told in a clever way. It helps to bring awareness and a real understanding of life for dumpsite children across the world. Trash comes highly recommended by me.
on 6 February 2013
Set in a world where poverty is extreme and depressingly common, Trash forces you to listen to the voices of people you would normally turn away from in the street.
The main narrators, Rat, Raphael and Gardo, are children of the dumpsite who live in the filth thrown out by the rest of the city, sorting through it looking for anything that can be salvaged, cleaned and sold for a pittance that will buy them another day's worth of food.
They are honest narrators and you can't help but fall in love with them as they work their way through an adventure that is much bigger than they are after finding something in the trash that turns their world upside down.
They uncover the secret of a stranger who wants to change the way their lives are led. A secret that the government wants to stamp into the ground before anyone can find it out, even if they have to crush a handful of street boys to do it.
The rich are merciless, the poor are desperate. Trash shows you the importance of love and friendship in the darkest of places and brings to light just how one person's greed can affect a whole country of people if they are high enough in power and wear the right smile. And also just how precarious the life of greed is when you make too many people too desperate.
I loved the pace of the story and the use of various narrators, all speaking as if they are telling you a story face-to-face, was very clever. It showed just how many people were involved and how it affected them personally making the story more believable and striking more nerves than perhaps it would have were it told in a more impersonal way.
Unlike anything else I have ever read, Trash really made me think about the inequality of our world, especially in countries where dump-sites really are the lifelong home of people and blind eyes are turned.
on 15 January 2011
When Trash first landed on my doorstep at the beginning of the summer I hadn't heard a thing about it. I was instantly intrigued though. Wrapped in a brown paper bag filled with shredded paper and a lovely letter from David Fickling, it was a unique way of marketing the book which really grabbed my attention.
Trash is, quite simply, one of the best books of the year. The buzz about it is incredible and it really does live up to the hype. It's a truly unique novel and I can guarantee you won't have read anything like it before. It will stay with you for weeks after reading - I still haven't forgotten one detail and I can't help but keep rereading it. The story is so complete and perfectly executed; you can't get to the end of this one without being moved.
Yes, yes I did weep numerous times during Trash, as per usual and I expect you will too. Mulligan has such a beautiful way with words and a great turn of phrase, everything flows so perfectly and it's so hard to put Trash down half way through the story. As soon as the pace slows enough for you to catch your breath you're rocketing forward again. Brilliant. Truly exciting stuff I can assure you.
The characterisation is awesome, to put it eloquently. The three dumpsite boys are lovely, absolutely endearing and there's a whole host of excellent supporting characters who I really loved getting to know. Mulligan makes it so easy to indentify with each character and gives each one a completely unique personality.
The story being told from the point of view of so many different characters is something I really enjoyed. I love multiple viewpoints but I find it's rare that they're written well. Luckily we're in good hands with Trash and each viewpoint is as wonderfully written and personal as the next. Olivia was my personal favourite; I think she added a lovely dimension to the story.
If you can, I'd advise going into Trash blind, like I did. I loved all the surprises the first time I read the book so do try to avoid any spoilers and just dive right in. I promise you won't be disappointed and I promise you'll walk away from Trash feeling like you've been on an incredible journey, side by side with some simply unforgettable characters.
on 22 July 2010
Andy Mulligan has vividly brought to life the world of kids who live on rubbish dumps all over the world. Seeing them in a documentary does not really convey the experiences of these children, their feelings, their hopes and dreams and the harsh reality of surviving in such a hostile environment. Fiction can be so much better at coveying the truth than documentary.
Raphael finds a bag on the dump and inside is a key which opens up a can of worms he and his friends could never have dreampt of in their worst nightmares. Assisted by his friends Gardo and Rat (aka Jun Jun), he slowly unravels the mystery he has stumbled upon and falls foul of the authorities in the process. Children in his world are expendable and disappear easily, despite the efforts of charity workers such as Father Juilliard and voluntary worker Olivia at the Mission School. However, these wily and resourceful children, albeit uneducated, show themselves capable of outwitting the adults and solving the riddle. They face danger with courage and loyalty and eventually the story resolves itself into a very satisfying conclusion. The characters are wonderfully drawn and the story well told, although the rapid changes in point of view can be slightly distracting, and I would recommend this book to anyone.
on 4 September 2010
With the futuristic worlds of dystopian fiction so popular right now, Trash gives us something of a reality check. Set in a world that's poles apart from the consumerist societies the majority of Western readers are used to, it's a book that reminds us that not everyone has it so easy. On this planet, right now, only a plane journey or two from where we live, human beings live on dumpsites. In Trash, we explore this unfathomable existence through the eyes of characters who themselves are so accustomed to it that to them, it's mundane. It's their everyday reality, and that's what's so mindblowing.
Against this remarkable backdrop, the story of Trash unfolds. It's a story of many voices, the narrative shared between the dumpsite boys and those who have a part to play in their tale. Brave and honourable Raphael; his shrewd cousin, Gardo; Jun-Jun, who has nobody in the world to take care of him and lives alone amongst the rats. Generously, the job of narrator is passed to whoever has the most useful viewpoint to offer for the story's telling - each voice distinctive and likeable in its own way. They're characters who have nothing, but they risk their lives and their freedom for their faith in the actions of a man they've never met.
Full of mystery and intrigue, Trash is a page-turning tale of corruption and cunning and valour. Two boys find a single bag of apparently discarded belongings, and suddenly they can't ignore the adventure that's calling them. With the odds - and the ruthless authorities - against them, our unassuming heroes use their wits and their determination to evade capture, enlist the help of allies and crack the complex code at the heart of the mystery they've stumbled upon. For a relatively slim volume, this is a book with major impact. It's a book that forges an emotional bond with the reader; a book that, if you're anything like me, will draw you in and make you care - really care - about the outccome.
Trash expands our worldview and pushes the limits of our experience. It's gripping and humbling and filled with lifelike characters you'll take to your heart. It's an amazing journey. I loved it, and I'd urge anyone to pick up a copy. This one's unforgettable.
on 30 November 2010
I haven't read a book as solidly grounded as this one for ages. It has fantastic moments and a magical and inspiring ending but you believe every word about the trash boys lives because the descriptions are so detailed and specific. There's no hint of mawkish pity about it. These boys live like this, on or near the giant rubbish heaps, scrabbling for what they can to feed themselves and their families. Then they find something wonderful and dangerous and protect it against a corrupt society by their wits. The tension builds up and the authenticity never wavers. We see various people and organisations doing their best to help the children but it is their own persistence and cleverness that gets them through to a triumphant conclusion. Very inspiring. Full marks! I shall read it again and am giving it for Christmas
on 24 July 2011
Trash is a very original story, following the lives of three `trash boys' who discover a bag in amongst the city's rubbish; this bag will lead to the corrupt police out to kill them, an incredible journey and an unforgettable tale, which builds suspense up , keeping you glued `til the very end, and is paced very well. I thought it was very clever how story unfolded, and ingenious how important the letter in the bag turns out to be.
You really feel for the three main characters - they are what really made the novel for me - and seriously hope that they triumph in their important mission. The writing isn't exactly beautiful, but Mulligan is very good at describing the scene and getting into the mindset of the narrator and simple words are used lyrically, as though you are reading a fairy tale, with bluntly powerful words used to describe the horrors of their way of life. I have a few very slight niggles about Trash, firstly, and it could have been easily solved by putting an exchange rate at the start, and that was that I don't know the worth of the currency (pesos, which does make the novel more authentic) used so I found it hard to know how much things were worth - eleven hundred sounds like a lot, but it doesn't appear to actually be so. I also found that, in some chapters in particular, the narrator changed far too rapidly, and let to a lot of confusion and re-reading on my part, and in some cases I didn't think the alteration of narrator was entirely necessary. Finally, not knowing where exactly the novel was set - the Philippines for clarification - until you read the author's note annoyed me a bit, and I genuinely thought it was set in India for a good portion of the novel!
It was a partially sad novel because of the fact that millions of extremely young children and teenagers and adults will sift through mountains of trash in the hope of finding useful trash amongst the muck and waste, which they hope to sell on for mere pennies to support their huge families for the entirety of their lives - a very unhappy existence, I'm sure you'll agree, but Trash really opens your eyes to these poor people's sufferings; you see it in documentaries, but you don't feel the true extent of what they go through until you read this wonderfully unique book.
I was a bit disappointed by the ending on first reading it, but after mulling it over a bit, I've since realised that it was ever-so-slightly perfect. Do not read any spoilers for this book - it will ruin it, and you honestly do not want to ruin Trash - it will shock you, and inspire you, and possibly make you cry, but above all else it will make you think and warm your heart.