Saturday, February 19, 2011

Trash, by Andy Mulligan

Raphael, Gardo and Rat lead lives that are unimaginable to most of us. They live in a huge garbage dump, making their shelters out of discarded boxes and metal pieces that they find in the dump-site; their food and clothing come from the same source. Not having parents, the three boys look after each other. All day, every day is spent sorting through the garbage for anything that can be taken to town and sold. The three are remarkably cheerful despite their dreary, awful circumstances. They never give up the hope that one day they will find something so valuable that it will change their lives forever.

One day that very thing happens. Raphael discovers a bag containing a wallet, a city map, a key and an ID card as well as eleven hundred pesos. He and Gardo realize that what they have found must be quite valuable when the police arrive the next day and offer a large reward to anyone finding the bag. However, the boys are suspicious. If they turn the bag over to the police, they are sure they will never collect the reward; the police are corrupt and have nothing but contempt for the people living in the dump-site. Raphael is soon brought to police headquarters for questioning and receives a beating when he does not divulge any information. He is released, a bloody mess, and returns to tell Gardo and Rat of his ordeal. All three are more determined than ever to solve the mystery of why the contents of the bag are so important to the police.

The boys work quickly and cleverly, thanks to Rat's unerring ability to find his way in and out of the city. The police are always right behind them, making for many tense moments and narrow escapes. The boys are nothing if not street-smart, and their survival skills are honed to a high level. These chapters are the most exciting in the book. There is a tautness to the writing that keeps the suspense level very high.

The stakes, as the boys come to realize, are high--six million dollars to be exact. They never lose their sense of purpose, or their loyalty to one another, or their charitable impulses. The ending of the book raises some interesting questions, the most interesting of which would be: what would you do with six million dollars? 2010.
M. Cooney

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