This one has been getting lots of love from the start - and while it wasn't awarded any serious hardware at the recent ALA awards, Trash does have the honor of being one of the top ten books chosen by the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee, a great honor in itself!
Rafael, Gardo and Jun-Jun, aka Rat, are trash boys. Living among the dump site Behala, the boys spend their days climbing mountains of trash, sorting out what can be re-sold, earning meager pay that is hardly enough to support themselves and their extended families. Most of what they find is shtupp, until one day Rafael pulls a leather bag out of the refuse - a leather bag with an ID card, and over 1,000 pesos inside. It's more money than Rafael has seen in his life - this sort of money represents hope for his family.
But before Rafael can get too comfortable with his newfound luck, the police come to Behala, saying they're looking for a leather bag. Instinctively, Rafael hides his treasure, and with Gardo and Jun-Jun's help, begin their own investigation into the man on the ID card and former owner of the cash. Their search will bring them face to face with some of the darkest secrets of their country, with the ones whom power has corrupted. But the boys hold out hope, that they can solve the mystery, and perhaps bring about some small amount of justice.
The theme of trash comes up in so many ways in this book - there's the actual trash mountains the boys climb every day, and it's where they find the money that jump starts their adventure. But it's also how people treat the boys - as if just because they're poor these boys are worthless. It's also a term that comes to mind to describe the corrupt politicians and other people in power.
The narration jumps between the three boys, with the occasional chapter told by other supporting characters, like the man who runs the Mission School in Behala who befriended Rat. It's never totally clarified who the story is being told to, or how long after the events the story is being relayed. This would be an excellent book to use when writing teachers are talking about audience and first person narration, because these boys are very aware that they are telling a story.
Mulligan does an excellent job describing th downtrodden settings and fast-paced action. He cultivates an excellent sense of danger as the boys are on the run. There's a bone chilling scene where Rafael is taken in for questioning by the police that had my heart in my throat the entire time.
There's a lot of awesomeness going on here. While this one personally wouldn't have made it onto my personal best read in 2010 list (and won't be going on my 2011 list), I can still see why it's garnered a lot of praise, and highly recommend it.