Trash, by Andy Mulligan (2010)

Genre: Grit Lit
Interest level: 12-18
TrashFriends Raphael, Gardo, and Rat help support their families (or themselves) by picking through trash, looking for metal or recyclables, anything they call sell, or food that is still good to eat. One day, Raphael finds a leather bag containing cash, an ID, and a key. He hides his discovery from the corrupt police – a decision that sets off a string of events that put him and his friends on the run as they try to solve the mystery before the police find them. Mulligan uses multiple narrators to reveal the story, giving us insight into brutal poverty, love and compassion, corruption and survival. Raphael writes for Rat, who can’t read or write, but who steals your heart with his dreams of a better future. It’s not clear how old these boys are (10? 14?) or where they live. The language is Spanish and Day of the Dead is celebrated, pointing to central or South America, though Mulligan worked as a teacher in the Philippines. Regardless, Mulligan gives us an unflinching look at these boys and their hard life, encouraging his readers to stand up to corruption wherever it occurs. A powerful story of determination and hope.
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