Friday, 31 May 2019


By Andy Mulligan

Raphael is fourteen years old and lives in a dump called Behala in an unnamed third-world country. He is certainly not alone.  Many families, including children and teens living on their own, live in abject poverty in many countries, and make their living by finding reusable garbage and selling it.

But when Raphael finds a bag with a wallet inside, his life is completely changed.  He takes the items, hoping they will make some money for him.  Almost immediately the police descend on the dump, questioning residents about this lost bag and offering a big reward.

Raphael does not trust the police to live up to their word.  He and his friend Gardo quickly find a place to hide their stash – with a friend called Rat.  Rat has earned his name because of his bad teeth and because he lives at the bottom of the dump site with all the rats.  No one bothers him there.  

Rat takes the wallet and discovers that there is a note inside, which leads the boys to a locker.  The locker gives them another clue, and the three boys follow it.  Each clue leads to another, but as the mystery drags on, life gets more and more dangerous for these poor boys.  As they begin to realize that the trail they are following will lead to big trouble for some very high-powered officials, they also understand that if the police catch them, they will kill them. 

Trash is a riveting mystery but also a commentary on life in third world countries.  Raphael, Gardo and Rat are living a lifestyle that is unimaginable to most of us in the West.  Andy Mulligan paints a vivid picture of poverty and corruption, which is all-too-familiar in many countries.  If you’re interested in social justice, try reading Trash.

Monday, 27 May 2019


Dry - Shusterman, Neal
By Neal Shusterman

Southern California is experiencing a drought that has lasted for many months.  Water conservation practices are well underway, including the “No Frivolous Use” policy, which means people can’t even use their pools anymore.  But no one expects the taps to go dry.  One day, out of the blue, there is no more water for cooking, washing or even drinking.

Alyssa Morrow and her little brother Garrett are sure it won’t last – the electricity always comes back on after a power outage, right?  Their parents assure them that desalinization machines are being brought to the beaches to change sea water into fresh water.  Everything is going to be fine.

As the days pass, people get more thirsty and become more desperate.  Alyssa’s neighbour, Kelton, has no worries though – his family has been preparing for this for years.  They have stockpiled food, water, and medical supplies.  Their home is utterly secure from intruders.  Kelton is willing to help Alyssa, despite his parents’ desire to keep their preparedness to themselves.

But when Alyssa’s parents go missing, and the neighbours try to invade Kelton’s house, the two teens decide to take Garrett and leave for Kelton’s family’s bug-out – a survival shelter hidden in the backcountry.

Their journey is far more difficult than they bargained for.  As they negotiate their way into an off-road vehicle and a box of water, Kelton, Alyssa and others they pick up along the way, learn what they are really capable of.  As they struggle to survive, they behave in ways they never normally would.  Their decisions will make the difference between life and death, and they do what they have to do.

Dry is an amazing survival story, and for those who like disaster movies, this is a must read!  But Dry is also terrifying because the story is so close to reality.  In a place like California, or even here in Richmond, the distance from “water restrictions” to complete “tap-out” might be closer than you think.  How far would you be willing to go to survive?

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Amazing amazing book.  Aristotle and Dante are initially drawn to each other because of their names, however, they are the opposite of each other. Aristotle (Ari) is quiet, reserved, keeps everything inside himself- but he has come by that honestly as his parents do the same. They don’t talk about Ari’s older brother who is in prison, and they don’t talk about his father’s experiences in Viet Nam, despite the fact that both of these events have had an impact on their lives. 

Dante on the other hand is an only child whose parents are quite demonstrative and talk about everything. Each time they greet each other it is with a kiss on the cheek, a touch, some physical connection. Because of this openness, Dante of course has no filter most of the time and shares what he is feeling when he feels it.

Despite these differences, their friendship blossoms and they definitely balance each other out. Each respects the other’s ways. Each of the boys is in their final years of high school and are really living typical teen age lives, attending the occasional party, experimenting with alcohol and an occasional joint, but they are both ‘good boys’ not getting into trouble and are genuinely loved and supported by their parents.

Dante is generally happy and open, Aristotle is generally angry and quiet, causing some interesting discussions between the boys, particularly slightly complicated by the fact that Dante is in love with Ari, yet Ari denies having the same feelings for Dante. 

There are a few pivotal incidents that bring some of these feelings to the forefront, a car accident, a beating, a cross country move and a family death all work as catalysts to aid Ari, in particular, to acknowledge his buried feelings and to root out the source of his anger, and the beginning of family ghosts being put to rest.