Release Date: February 3rd, 2011
Genre: Young Adult, Cultural
Cover: B – The US cover is much better than the UK cover. It gives you an idea of what the story is about. The UK cover is pretty bad.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Fifteen-year-old Aaron lives and works amid the garbage piles of Cairo.
To collect broken glass.
To find a future he can believe in.
Today in Cairo, Egypt, there is a city within a city: a city filled with garbage–literally. As one of the Zabbaleen people, Aaron makes his living sorting through the waste. When his family kicks him out, his only alternatives are to steal, beg, or take the most nightmarish garbage-collecting job of all.
Anna Perera’s richly detailed second young adult novel transports readers to the heartbreaking world of the Zabbaleen.
So the blurb on this one is really short. And while it makes you curious, I don’t think it makes someone want to read the book. Neither does the cover. I think they both did the book a disservice and I can’t help but wonder why the publisher would go in this direction. Not a choice I would have made, and I think that really sucks and will hurt the book’s sales. So I think I am going to give you guys a summary on this one and hopefully it will make you want to read the book. Because it was a great book and deserves to be read.
New information on 10/31/2011: Apparently the cover I was using is actually the UK cover and so was the blurb. The Albert & Whitman cover and blurb is much better, but because it is not posted on Goodreads, I can’t add it to my review. But if you would like to see the updated cover and blurb, be sure and visit my blog at The Glass Collector Review. I still think it’s important to leave my comments on the UK cover here though, because there are a lot of UK Goodreads users. But my review is supposed to be of the US edition.
So there’s this teen, Aaron. And he lives in the slums of Cairo. But they aren’t just any slums in any city. He lives in Mokattam and he is a garbage collector. You’re probably thinking of the guys that go around your neighborhood with sanitation trucks and collect bags out on the street and then drive them off to the landfill. That’s not exactly what happens in Cairo. Cairo has a garbage collection service, but apparently there is so much trash in Cairo, that they cannot possibly collect it all. Aaron is a Zabaleen. They are a community of people that serve as informal garbage collectors. They go around to different parts of the city, collect the garbage behind businesses and take it home. Yes, home. There they sort it into different piles by material. Glass, metal, medical waste, etc. And then they sell it to a middle man who has it recycled and remade into usable materials. Can you imagine having to put your hands into dirty piles of garbage every day? Touching spoiled and moldy food, used syringes, and drug paraphernalia? Squick, ick, and gross. But that’s what Aaron does. He is a glass collector. He searches the garbage piles for glass and that’s his job, day in and day out.
There’s way more to this story than that though. He lives with his step family because his mother died and he has no living relatives left. And his step family is mean to him. They treat him like a burden. It’s also about his life, his neighbors, living in Mokattam, his friends and his love of colored glass.
I kind of fell in love with these people. Life is ridiculously hard for them. And though this story is fictional, there is a lot of truth here. This story was well-researched and it clearly shows. The characters are properly fleshed out and the community of Mokattam is clearly a character in the story as well. I didn’t love the setting because it was kind of sad and depressing, but it was beyond interesting. This book just pulled me in and wouldn’t let go until it was over.
This is one of those books where I had little to no expectation going into reading it. And once again, I was pleasantly surprised. Because of the lack of a well thought out blurb, I had no idea what the story was going to be about. And that’s for the best sometimes. It was a fantastic story with fantastic writing. I would read it again and it comes highly recommended from me. I think it’s one of those books that should be read by all.