By Wini Ashooh
Raphael is fourteen years old and living in an unnamed, third-world country in Andy Mulligan's book, Trash. He and his friend Gardo spend most of their days picking through the huge trash pile looking for everyday items and food. Raphael and Gardo know that when the trash is dumped from the wealthy part of town they will have a heyday. Most of the children in Raphael's village drop out of school to spend their day sifting through the trash to help support their families. Families see school as a waste of time when their children could be helping out in a more productive manner with the trash picking.
One day while Raphael and Gardo are going through the trash pile, they come across a bag that triggers a life-altering chain of events. An elaborate and mysterious journey begins with a message found in the bag, which reveals the government's extreme political corruption. Gardo and Raphael travel far beyond their familiar town and trash pile. With the help of teachers, priests, and social workers the young men search for answers as they attempt to do the right thing, but they are never sure whom to trust. The plot thickens and they begin to unravel the mystery and cover-up, which is more far-reaching than anything they have ever experienced.
Trash takes place where there is an extreme juxtaposition of the "haves" and the "have-nots." The story is told in the alternating voices of Raphael, Gardo, and Rat. The character of Rat lives in a shelter that is buried beneath and surrounded by trash. This is a compelling story with enough plot twists to keep the reader hungry for the next clue. The political corruption and extreme poverty are vividly depicted by Mulligan as we follow along with the journey taken by Raphael and Gardo.