There are two things about AJ which make him different to others. The first is his ability to run- he was born to run; the other is that his parents have learning difficulties. This has never been an issue as Grandad has always been around to guide the family and help them cope with things like paying bills. On a day to day basis, AJ doesn't think he looks after his parents: It’s no big deal for me. Really it isn’t. I don’t look after them. We look after each other.
However, things start to unravel for AJ when his much loved grandfather dies. Reeling from the loss of this stable and loving figure, AJ has to to cope with the move from primary to secondary, taking responsibility for dealing with bills (including the red bills) and navigating the demands of his new school. His greatest worry is what will happen to his parents without him should people realise his grandfather is dead and he be taken into care.
'Running on Empty' is a deeply moving story of one young carer's struggle to keep his family together. The reader watches while AJ thinks he is coping, yet has sudden irrational outbursts. The way he keeps his troubles hidden means he is often misjudged, leading to misunderstandings. The story cleverly shows how some children can get lost in the system as the stories known to teachers at Primary are not necessarily understood by those at secondary, particularly when the child is trying desperately to hide things.
However, the story is also one full of love- and about the importance of following your dreams. It is beautifully written and thought provoking. A really special book.
Running on Empty S E Durrant
Nosy Crow ISBN: 978-0857637406
You can read another review of this here.