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Powerful adventure about dumpsite kids a true treasure.

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

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

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.    

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. 

Families can talk 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

Author:Andy Mulligan
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House
Publication date:October 12, 2010
Number of pages:240
Publisher's recommended age(s):12

This review of Trash was written by

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Teen, 15 years old Written bymissuncreative July 16, 2011

Really good, but language!

I enjoyed this book a lot! It was interesting, exciting, and just overall awesome. However, this IS language (I have NO idea what the review is saying with "not applicable"). The a-word, s-word, and d-word a few times (and sometimes it's the kids who say the words). And I know that at the end of the book, I wanted to get in the shower! I honestly felt like throwing up once or twice while reading it. But it was really good, and I would actually suggest it to people. :)
What other families should know
Educational value
Too much swearing
Teen, 13 years old Written byEscort Rider September 11, 2011

A remarkable but realistic tale of mystery and intrigue

Fascinating mystery story in a most unusual and gritty setting. The resourcefulness of the uneducated protagonists is remarkable, but remains realistic. I was looking for a book to read aloud to a fifth grade class, and this one held my interest from start to finish. If you're looking for something syrupy and sweet you'll need to look elsewhere, yet in the end the good side of the human spirit triumphs here.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Teen, 14 years old Written bypowellinator May 24, 2012

Bad book

the worst book i ever read
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking