AJ is a boy who just loves to run. Swept away on the belief and hope that anyone can achieve their dream after watching the 2012 London Olympics, all he wants to do is run on the hallowed track where he saw his idol Usain Bolt win gold. His incredibly running ability makes him different from most 11 year old boys but the thing that makes him really different, well that’s just too difficult to talk about. In fact if AJ tells the world why his life is so different it might just bring his world crashing down around him. For AJ is struggling to deal with dramatic change in his life and he’s not quite managing. Not only does he have to adjust from moving between primary and secondary schools but the death of his beloved grandfather has placed him in a role of carer with too much responsibility for such a young boy – looking after his parents who have learning difficulties. How can he ever hope to fulfil his dream when he is struggling to keep his family together.
Incredibly emotional and powerful storytelling from S.E Durrant makes ‘Running On Empty’ a truly, compelling read. As a parent of a child who has just made the transition to secondary school for me it has a times felt like an emotional and logistical minefield. So my heart goes out to AJ and his parents, how on earth are they meant to negotiate this tricky and complicated process without the support that they so desperately need but so desperately don’t want in case questions start to be asked. The characterisation is flawless, she has created the most wonderful characters who you genuinely feel an absolute connection to and you become so caught up in their lives that it is a wrench to say goodbye to them at the end of the book. AJ’s determination and desperation to succeed is just heart-breaking. The small barriers that are in the way to his success are seen as unsurmountable to him and you would do anything to help him on his way but life isn’t always that simple. There are so many moments of sheer sadness met by sheer joy that make for an emotional rollercoaster of a story but ultimately it’s uplifting without being unrealistic or overly sentimental. An outstanding, empathetic read that I absolutely loved. With a stunning, vibrant cover and chapter illustrations from Rob Biddulph this book deserves to be in every school library, an absolute must have read.
Thank you to Nosy Crow for sending me a copy of this stunning book. ‘Running on Empty’ is released on the 1st March and is available to pre-order online or from any good bookshop.