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.