Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
Trash Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Powerful adventure about dumpsite kids a true treasure.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 12 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Careful readers will understand that beyond the adventure, this is a story about what it's like to live in poverty in much of the world. Parents and teachers who want to use this book to sharpen teens' thinking skills may want to use the publisher's guide.

Positive Messages

Though this is fiction, the book  will not only get kids thinking about third-world poverty, and how harsh children's lives often are. Kids will also be inspired not only by the tight bonds between the boys but by how they are able to work together to do what's right -- and ultimately impact a lot of people.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The boys sometimes lie to get what they need, and even steal money from the Missionary School, but their hearts are in the right places. Readers will admire how they look out for one another, and in the end, how they use their money to impact others like them.


In one scene, a protagonist cuts a would-be captor in the face with his hook, then flees during gunshots. A boy is roughly interrogated by police, and is subsequently haunted by nightmares. Readers will be struck by a description of a warehouse-like prison with endless cells and inmates suffering inside them.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The boys do drink -- at one point Rat comes back "smelling like rum" with a "nip" for each character.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book is about three boys living in a trash dump -- and they are pretty frank about the often disturbing details of their impoverished lives. One is beaten by police and suffers nightmares afterward, while another lives in a rat-infested hole in the ground; all three face unsanitary, inhumane conditions as they work in trying to find anything of value in their trash dump city. In one scene, a protagonist cuts a would-be captor in the face with his hook, then flees during gunshots. A police interrogation and another description of a warehouse-like prison with endless cells and inmates will haunt readers.    

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byjohnny11 September 24, 2020

Not for the little ones

Trash is a decent book, but the language is simply not appropriate for primary schoolers.

There's one particular interrogation which proves my point. A p... Continue reading
Parent of a 11-year-old Written byLayla1233 January 4, 2016

It would be appealing to teens or children 11/12 yr old

I think it was a good book and the children really enjoyed it especially my oldest who is 12yrs old - she absolutely loved it - but I would've given it 5 s... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 3, 2014


It is a great book that has a little swearing and smoking with great messages. Must Read!
Teen, 13 years old Written byCorey b November 27, 2013

Trash and the small things you might want to know.

It is an ok book but it has very mild language and and there is a bit of violence in the book as we'll but over all it's a good book to read it passes... Continue reading

What's the story?

Set in the near future, this book follows three boys from a trash dump city who come together when one of them discovers a mysterious wallet. Clues lead them into a huge conspiracy involving a corrupt official at the near top of their government. But the police are already after them: Will they get caught before they can find the stolen money, rumored to be a whopping six million dollars? And what will they do with the money if they find it?

Is it any good?

Told through multiple narrators, each with a unique voice, this story will grip teens. Readers will find themselves racing through the adventure with the three boys as they try to sort through opaque clues (and even break a difficult code) before they are caught by the corrupt police. At the same time, they will be swept up in the details of their trash city, known as Behala, where trash "mountains go right from the docks to the marshes" and the boys support themselves and their families by "picking through the stuff this city throws away." Indeed, details about their lives in this futuristic, Third-World city -- and the atrocities experienced by the poor and others, including an elderly justice fighter -- may stick with readers longer than the actual adventure story at its heart. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about books set in the future. Even books that are set in the near future, like this one, often feature dark elements, like corrupt police and governments, and more disparity between rich and poor. Why do you think that is? Do books like this one do anything to prevent these ideas from becoming reality?

  • Why do you think the author decided to keep the exact year and location a mystery? It seems that the story is set not too far from now -- and that it is set somewhere in the Third World. Does it bother you to not know exactly when or where the story is taking place?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure and mystery

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate