AJ, 11, is a worrier and a dreamer, and he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Grandad was his pal, his running companion, and a fellow admirer of the Jamaican Olympic champion Usain Bolt. Grandad was also the caretaker of AJ’s parents, who are learning disabled. Now that Grandad is gone, AJ feels he must take over, dealing with bills and managing the minutiae of living in a very old, run-down house in London. He has conflicting feelings about his parents; he loves them but is sometimes embarrassed by them. He’s unsure of his ability to handle it all, but he is terrified the authorities will take him away from his parents. All this is happening as he begins secondary school and tries out for the track team with running shoes that are painfully too small. He bravely faces many crises but finally accepts help from caring friends and family. AJ narrates his own story, addressing readers directly, as if they are trusted friends. First published in the U.K., the text includes some British terms that will be easily understood by American readers. Chapters are titled and vary in length, sometimes headed by a repeated, identical black-and-white image of a running track. The cover depicts AJ with pale skin; brief descriptions and naming conventions indicate that his London is vigorously multicultural.
AJ is imperfect, kindhearted, loving, earnest, and entirely delightful. (Fiction. 8-12)