Monday, May 16, 2011

The Boys from Behala

by Andy Mulligan
David Fickling Books
240 pages
ISBN:  0385752145

Part murder mystery and part detective story, Trashis an adventurous, suspenseful tale of political corruption in a police state in the not-too-distant future where most of the people live in extreme poverty with little hope of rising above the trash.  Raphael and Gardo, two orphaned fourteen-year-old dump-site boys, make their living amidst the throng of humanity picking through the mountains of trash of Behala, a rubbish town on the outskirts of a large tourist city in a Third-World country.

Raphael says he never finds anything special, and "then one day I did."  Raphael's find is a mysterious bag, the contents of which are so important that the police descend on Behala and offer a large reward to anyone who turns over the bag.  Distrustful of the police, Raphael denies possession of the bag, and with the help of Gardo and young Rat he sets out to solve the mystery of the bag.  The boys have no idea what they're in for.  "All we were sure of was that we were in something deep, getting deeper."  The reader can't help but root for these three urchins as they outmaneuver their "betters."

As the boys set out from Behala and see more of the city, they discover the unjust inequality between their squalid lives and those affluent lives of other "more important" people.  They learn firsthand that "you pay for being poor."  At one point, Raphael is told by a man in a suit that he is nothing but garbage, "that's all you are, that's what all of you are.  You are a piece of garbage."  What is particularly disturbing about this view of the poor is that more and more I see the seeds of this attitude in our world.  In the last thirty years qualities like kindness and charity have been devalued to the point where the poor are now resented and viewed as lazy and deserving of their fate, even by "Christians."  With so many homeless and so many without jobs, Trash's world of garbage dwellers doesn't seem so farfetched.


  1. Did you like the way the story was told? I enjoy when an author lets us hear different voices and brings them all into one story. It was too grim to say I liked this story, but the reality of their lives has made me think about this book longer than most. -T

  2. I considered mentioning the shifting narrators in my review, but, honestly, it didn't make much difference for me one way or the other, aside from occasionally having to flip back the page to remember whose story I was reading. There was one real distinction between the narrators for me and that is the presentation of the boys, who seem so much tougher when they are telling the story. When seeing the boys through the adults' eyes, their youth and vulnerability is underscored.

  3. I think you're absolutely right about Trash being all too possible for the future. Not only is it a commentary on the world's morale climate, it's also a cautionary tale for the way that we treat our planet!