The first I read in a few wonderful hours on the weekend and it is “Trash” by Andy Mulligan, being published in September by David Fickling Books. I did some very superficial research on Andy, and it looks like this is his first book. Wow. I hope that mine is this good.
“Trash” is the story of a city in crisis. Raphael Fernandez and his friend Gardo live in a town filled with rubbish. Every day they sift through the ‘stuppa’ (excrement) that fills the garbage to try to find enough to survive on. Their livelihoods and their homes are built on and out of the trash that they climb through daily. But everything changes when Raphael finds a key in a wallet. At first the boys think little of this piece of luck, aside from the financial value that it will bring them, but when the police arrive, asking suspicious questions about a lost bag and offering a serious financial reward to the finder of the bag, they are thrown headfirst into a mystery that ends at the very heart of the corruption in their country.
“Trash” is dark in parts, but ultimately uplifting. The characters are incredibly endearing and as they take turns in narrating their recollections of the event, it is impossible not to be hooked by their lifelike voices. The themes in the novel are reminiscent of Vikas Swarup’s “Q&A” (later reprinted as “Slumdog Millionaire”).
“Trash” is a lively, thought provoking read.
Also due in September is “Mice”, by Gordon Reece, published by Allen & Unwin. Reece is a Melbourne based writer/ illustrator, and “Mice” is his first YA novel.
This is a suspense thriller that really tilts the idea of suspense as a genre. Unlike most books which call themselves suspense, “Mice” is pretty upfront about what happens. Although I won’t ruin the experience for you by spelling it all out here, I will tell you that you won’t have to sit still for pages and pages, having guessed the terrible event that is about to occur and just waiting for the author to finally get to it. Reece gets to that point straight away. But unlike other suspense novels, the point of “Mice” is not the horrible event, it is what happens after, and how it changes the sixteen year old protagonist that matters.
Shelley is a mouse. She has always just put up with her life, rather than trying to actively change aspects of it that she is unhappy with. Even a traumatising event at school, that leaves her scarred, and forces Shelley and her mother to move to a house in the country is not enough to make her stand up for herself. But just when she has started to relax in her new life, Shelley and her mother are rocked by yet another traumatic event. What happens next is cold, frightening, and deeply disturbing.
Although this book is framed as a suspense thriller, and is as hard to put down as one, it is essentially a brutal look at the human limits. Just how much will we put up with? And when we snap, as we undoubtedly would under enough pressure, just how far would we go?
Certainly, this YA debut for Reece shows a keen eye for human behaviour and a skillful hand at storytelling. Don’t skip this thought provoking book because it will make you question what you think you know.
Other things that I am looking forward to are “Mockingjay” Suzanne Collins (the third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy) and “Lies” Michael Grant (the follow up to the fantastic “Hunger” and “Gone” that are taking boy readers by storm).