Ember (Random House)
Published Oct 11, 2011
Paperback, 240 pages
Trash is one of those books you read that stays with you for a long time. My daughter and I read this one together for her Battle of the Books competition at school. I had never heard of it and was very happy to have discovered it. We both loved its intensity and powerful message of hope and determination in the face of staggering poverty.
Fourteen-year-old Raphael and his friend Gardo are trash boys. They live in boxes on a dumpsite in a third world country that remains unnamed throughout the novel. Raphael is an orphan who lives with his aunt and every day they sift through the city’s disgusting trash to look for items that can be sold such as plastic, paper, tin cans and glass bottles. Then one day, Raphael finds a bag containing cash, a letter and identity papers. When the hard-nosed authorities come around to see if any of them have found anything, Raphael keeps quiet. Things get dangerous when he and Gardo team up with a younger boy named Rat to try to discover the mystery surrounding these documents.
The boys finally end up on the run from the police and corrupt politicians. They experience terrifying situations but also joy and satisfaction trying to outwit the authorities who will stop at nothing to get the information they have. They know from their investigation that they are doing the right thing and display great courage to solve the mystery.
Trash is told from multiple point-of-views but mainly that of the three characters Raphael, Gardo and Rat. We experienced various emotions reading this novel: heartbreak, shock, justice, triumph and satisfaction. These boys have nothing and yet they can experience happiness in the simplest of things. They are dirt poor with no education, no parents, no home and no money and yet they stand up for what they believe to be right even at great danger to themselves. My heart ached constantly for them, especially knowing there are children who actually do live like that.
Reading from the boy’s point-of-view was brilliant because we got to know them and their dreams for a better life. If one has hope, he can survive the direst of circumstances. These boys were funny, honest and forthright. They laid it all out for the reader to experience. And yet underneath all that, they were vulnerable and scared. They laughed, they cried, they outwitted the authorities and we couldn’t help but cheer them on as they raced toward a finale that was astounding.
The plot was full of twists and turns and my daughter and I were enthralled, wondering where it would all lead and how these poor boys could possibly win against trained men. Trash is a powerful story and I’m glad I read it with my daughter. It is one of the best YA books I’ve read this year. It would make an amazing movie.
Note: This book is rated V = violence for a scene when the authorities beat up on a boy to get him to talk.
Reviewed by Laura & Daughter
Disclosure: We borrowed this book from the library and were not told how to rate or review this product.
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