Wednesday, December 8, 2010

review : trash

trash, by andy mulligan (david fickling books)

"my name is raphael fernandez and i am a dumpsite boy."

and thus part one of trash begins. eleven-year-old raphael is frank and unrestrained as he describes his daily work in the dumpite of behala, sifting through the city's rubbish to find something they can sell (tyres are good, so's plastic) and you're with him completely by the time he finds a bag among all the stupp (shit) and inside the bag: money, a map, a key, an ID card and two photos of a little girl. we already know, raphael has already told us, that this is an 'unlucky-lucky day, the day the world turned upside down.'

the story is told in the enigmatic voices of raphael, his friend-brother gardo, the smart and solitary rat (real name jun-jun, renamed 'because he lived with the rats and had come to look like one'), the kind father julliard and the naive, well-meaning olivia. they take it in turns to spin the tale, speaking from some point in the future when the story is over. they recount just how they all became involved in this tale of money, corruption, police brutality, real poverty and real hope. there are similarities to the film slumdog millionaire here, as other reviews have noted, and certainly those who enjoyed that film will also appreciate trash.

the characters come alive in these pages and remain with the reader long after they finish the book. the writing is wonderful and very evocative and the codes and puzzles in the story work nicely. although this book is quite confronting, when i think about the scenes in the prisons and the two chase scenes towards the end and not to mention the terrible conditions these kids live in, this would be an excellent read for children 10+ and particularly excellent for families to read together. and grown-ups should read it too, even if they don't have kids. and just look at that cover - beautiful.

and oh! the ending! it's wonderful!

trash goes onto my top ten list of favourite books of the year. easily.

andy mulligan's website is here.


  1. wow.

    thanks for reviewing this.

    i've seen it around but it didn't capture my interest for some reason, but now i am absolutely keen to pick it up.

    loved slumdog - and this sounds just as moving and enthralling.

  2. Lovely review of this, and I completely agree about the ending. I'd probably put it on my top ten this year too.

  3. I'll just draw your readers to an article in the Guardian whereby the Blue Peter awards in the UK have dropped 'Trash' because of language contained in it.

    It makes me wonder about the reading process that goes on in competitions.

    Aside from that, it's all good publicity for the book, but your review actually makes me want to read it. Thanks

  4. yes, nomes and tassie devil, you both must read it. it's just excellent.

    lauren - i could just picture that particular scene towards the end so vividly. gorgeous.

    very interesting re. blue peter award. if only they had read the book before shortlisting it - damn having to read things! what a kerfuffle. they can obviously do what they want (although i'm sad they pulled 'trash') i hope lots of kids still read this. and now that it's deemed 'unsuitable' i guess we can be assured a lot of them will!


hey anonymousauruses - give yourselves a name. a nom de plume, a nom de blog. it's more fun that way.