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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Trash* by Andy Mulligan- young adult book review
by Andy Mulligan
Grades 7-10 240 pages David Fickling Books October 2010 Hardcover    

An exciting mystery, Trash is the story Rafael Fernandez, who survives in a community which lives off of the trash dumped there every day. Most of the time, the best they can find is plastic, glass or cans, but one day Rafael finds a small leather pouch containing 1100 pesos, a map, a key, a letter and a code.

Almost immediately, the police are at the trash site, obviously looking for what Rafael has found - something of immense value. With the help of his friends Gardo and Rat, Rafael keeps what he has found hidden from the police. Together they figure out what is so very important or valuable about the contents of the pouch.

The police take Rafael in for questioning when his aunt slips up and says that he has “found something.” Vehemently denying anything, he is beaten but eventually escapes.

Meanwhile, Rat recognizes the key as one that fits into a mailbox at Central Station. The boys open the mailbox and discover another letter which leads them to a prison and the old man who knows the owner of the letter. Suddenly their adventure is much larger than they could ever imagine: the mystery is entangled with government corruption at the highest level.

The story is told from a number of different points of view, beginning with Rafael and adding in the perspectives of his friends and the people they must deceive in order to discover the truth. Eventually, they involve the priest at the mission school near the trash and a volunteer whose status as a social worker gets them into the prison to meet the man addressed in the letter.

Seamlessly tying the multiple perspectives together, Mulligan creates a sense of urgency as the reader anticipates what may be found yet is surprised at where, when and how justice is finally served.

Based on true circumstances of children living on trash heaps in the Philippines, Mulligan keeps the language relatively clean, but the circumstances of the people living in the trash are quite unpleasant, and there are some necessary situations of extreme violence. Each piece of the corruption is revealed very carefully, as is the solution to the mystery.

The book ends in an appendix written as a letter from the man who lost the letter packet and an explanation of the code the boys use to finally solve the mystery. Highly recommended.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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