Trash: a great read for teens and young adults

What an amazing book! A relatively short and easy read, but one that's powerful in its simplicity.

Three dumpsite boys live by sifting rubbish and looking for things to sell. One day they discover a deadly secret which they must decipher and try to fathom, and which they must risk their lives to keep hidden from the police.

Mulligan's writing is crystal clear: each voice is unique, telling the story as it happens from a different of point of view, giving credibility and depth and setting a fast pace.

It is a confronting tale of the corruption of power and the implications of this on the poorest of the poor, yet for all the gravity and unpleasantness of the content, the relative refinement with which it is told makes it more like a clear and realistic history lesson. There is nothing gratuitous, and even the infrequent strong word feels mild next to the difficulties the boys face with such courage.

Though it's packaged for older children - who would need to be well read and mature enough for the serious themes, it is a recommended read for adults and teens. In my opinion it is well above Slumdog Millionaire, even though it only takes a couple of hours to read.

There is one discussion point to keep in mind on the importance of money. It could be said that money is at the heart of the story, and one of the most respected characters (an aid worker) reasons that "there are values and virtues and morals; there are relationships and trust and love - and all of that is important. Money, however, is more important... without money you shrivel and die." There is also a quote from a university newspaper which urges "What does the country need right now? THREE THINGS: A revolution. Then a revolution. Then - when the dust has settled - a revolution."

Yet in the context of the whole story I did not find these to be the loudest calls. Instead, I found that what are really at the heart of the story are values and virtues and morals, relationships and trust and love... which are all tried and tested in an adventure that is set in motion by money. And it is a thrilling read.

Clare Cannon lives in Sydney where she is the manager of Portico Books.


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