One Kid’s Trash
– Jamie Sumner –
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Published 31 August 2021
If you are looking for a middle grade novel about starting middle school, trying to fit in, making friends, and dealing with bullying, then One Kid’s Trash is the book for you. The inclusion of garbology as a mini superpower for our main character makes this realistic novel both unique and the perfect addition to your middle grade novel collection.
When Hugo’s parents drag him away from his school and friends so his dad can start a new career (as a ski lift operator!) it’s just one more thing Hugo has to deal with. Like being short. And the short jokes and bullying that come with being short. Not to mention his mother’s constant worrying about his health. Starting middle school is hard enough without having to start at a new school and make new friends and avoid new bullies. Hugo’s got his cousin Vij to show him around, but he knows he’s just doing it out of family obligation and when Vij reveals Hugo’s skills in garbology – the science of understanding someone from the contents of their rubbish bin – he knows it’s only a matter of time until he before he becomes the laughing stock of the school.
Starting middle school is hard. Whether that’s a new school or just moving into those middle grade year levels, it’s a common time around the world of new relationships, complicated friendships, new expectations from teachers, that awkward time of loving your parents but also being embarrassed by them and just trying to find your place in the universe. For Hugo, his main worry is dealing with all the short comments and jokes he faces from his classmates. Some are made in fun and might not mean any harm, but they still hurt. And then there are the bullies. Like Chance at his new school. Chance is big, loud and determined to let Hugo know he doesn’t fit in.
During the course of the book Hugo moves from wanting to be invisible, gaining friends and some fame among his classmates due to his garbology skills, wanting to speak up against the bullying – not just for himself but for his friend Micah and the other people Chance bullies – to retaliation and revenge, before learning the impact of his own actions.
Hugo’s skills in garbology are a great addition to this story. While Hugo has a knack for reading people’s rubbish, it remains a science and within the bounds of realism.
The other main theme of the book is Hugo’s relationship with his parents. Hugo is upset with his dad, as he waits for him to fulfil his promise of more time together and his disappointment when his dad falls through on these promises. Hugo also struggles to balance his relationship with his mother – wanting her to give him more freedom and not worry as much, but also struggles with her working and seeming to never listen to what Hugo needs or is feeling. It reflects all the complex relationships tweens and parents share at this time, through a very tween-based perspective.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Middle grade fiction
Themes: Garbology, bullying, skiing, families, father son relationships, friendships, middle school,
Reading age guide: Ages 10 and up.
Advisory: Bullying, name calling.
Published: 31 August 2021 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, ebook, audiobook. 240 pages.