But not only that, the kids actually live in the garbage, in ramshackle houses made of anything and everything - with parents, aunties, brothers, cousins, grandparents. There's an entire subcontinent of life living in and around the trash heap - and this is where we meet three boys.
Gardo, Raphael and Rat (Jun-Jun) are everyday boys living life in filth when they discover a wallet containing a tidy sum of money - but the wallet contains much more than any of them could have dreamed. It holds the key to a mystery even the government want solved - and just as these three youngsters don't even know it, their world is about to be turned upside down.
Innocently protecting the whereabouts of the wallet from the descending throng of police who turn up at the trash site searching for it, the boys soon learn there is a deeper story to this seemingly insignificant item - and, having already lived a life based on desperation and insatiable curiosity, the boys defiantly set about discovering more.
And boy, do they discover more.
Queue the movie scene with the thumping music where we go on fast-forward through a series of rapid vignettes, the camera swooping after the boys as they tear through the slums and into the city, hotly pursued by police. Flash to the face of the young, female Western social worker helping Gardo enter a prison to meet a dying man, a glimpse of a letter, a code scratched in a bible, a beating, blood flying, a mass of prison cages with boys and men stacked like animals, men being tortured, screaming, the music becomes a howling intense wail, we see a locker, an old man's face contorted in pain, a graveyard, the face of a young girl waiting by a tomb...
This is the stuff young adult fiction is made of. Flush with surreptious references to poverty and the corrupt, both boys and girls will be entranced by the power and vivacity of the storyline of Trash - the way this deeply woven mystery unfolds, and the unexpected heartfelt connection to three boys who just want a simple life away from the trash heap and away from the corruption of a government who should care.
Mulligan writes in visuals that are astoundingly good - in a sort of stream-of-cousciousness that allows the sounds and the stink to clatter and permeate around the reader. We clearly see the boys and their world in our mind's eye and not only that - we feel their pain and angst and detemination in an almost visual way. It's there on their faces and irreversibly burned into our minds.
Is this book being optioned for a film? Probably. When will we see it in cinemas? Probably soon. Will it be worth it? Oh, yes. Bring it on.
Publisher: Random House, $24.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1 September 2010
For ages: 14+
Type: Young Adult Fiction