Author: Andy Mulligan
Published: 1 March 2011 by David Fickling
Length: 210 pages
Warnings: clean 10+
Other info: This has been shortlisted for the Carnegie 2012 medal, and has won other awards too.
Summary : In an unnamed Third World country, in the not-so-distant future, three “dumpsite boys” make a living picking through the mountains of garbage on the outskirts of a large city. One unlucky-lucky day, Raphael finds something very special and very mysterious. So mysterious that he decides to keep it, even when the city police offer a handsome reward for its return. That decision brings with it terrifying consequences, and soon the dumpsite boys must use all of their cunning and courage to stay ahead of their pursuers. It’s up to Raphael, Gardo, and Rat—boys who have no education, no parents, no homes, and no money—to solve the mystery and right a terrible wrong.
Review: Raphael, Gardo and Rat have spent their lives searching through the rubbish that comes to their home of a rubbish tip. They’ve lived like that forever. However, one day, they find a bag. It has a letter in it, and a string of numbers, and nobody knows what it means. And then they’re hunted. Round the city they travel, from prisons, to graveyards to find out what it all means. They soon end up undearthing seacrets-secrets which have been kept for ages, for good reasons.
I only read this because it’s on the Carnegie shortlist. It’s not my normal kind of thing, but I was pleasantly surprised with this.
There isn’t too much explicit world building, but most of Behala is conveyed via small details that you pick up if you read closely. I’m not entirely sure where exactly this is, but the way it’s written really gets the atmosphere of everything across.
My favourite character is Rat. He’s very resourceful, clever, connectable and just really well written. Olivia, a British girl who came out and started volunteering, too-believable, lovable and interesting. Rat doesn’t so much develop, as gradually show what he’s capapble of. The other boys, well rounded with their own voices and ideas.
The writing of this was really powerful. I really got into the world that this is set in, sadly realistic with its dumpsite boys, terrible prisons and corrupt politicians. It became real and this is definitely a world that I could easily get lost in.
This book has multiple narrators, some narrating the bulk, some narrating just one short chapter. I like the fact that each person introduces themself at the start, which is an interesting technique that somehow made them feel a little more important to you. Each person has their own voice to narrate in, consistant with the dialogue they have iwth other characters, and I found it really effective.
Overall: Strength 4 tea to a powerful book where the best part was the characters. It’d make a good winner.