Eleven-year-old Harrison Opoku, the second best runner in Year 7, races through his new life in England with his personalised trainers - the Adidas stripes drawn on with marker pen - blissfully unaware of the very real threat around him. Newly-arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister Lydia, Harri absorbs the many strange elements of city life, from the bewildering array of Haribo sweets, to the frightening, fascinating gang of older boys from his school. But his life is changed forever when one of his friends is murdered. As the victim's nearly new football boots hang in tribute on railings behind fluorescent tape and a police appeal draws only silence, Harri decides to act, unwittingly endangering the fragile web his mother has spun around her family to keep them safe.
From Autumn 2015, Stephen Kelman's deeply funny, moving idiosyncratic and unforgettable novel will be an AQA GCSE English Literature set text.
Kelman's debut novel is a well-tuned if simplistic portrait of a kid's life in the housing projects of London. After 11-year-old Harri, whose family has immigrated from Ghana, sees a classmate lying dead on the sidewalk one night, Harri and his buddy, Dean Griffin, set out to solve the murder, looking for the murder weapon, interviewing suspects, and gathering evidence. But the strength of this novel is not its murder mystery; rather, it's in hearing all Harri's thoughts as he falls in love, talks to his baby sister, or expresses himself in his own idiosyncratic language. The street-talk slang that Harri uses boring things take "donkey hours" and Nike Air trainers are "bo-styles" is crisp and mirthful, the perfect match to his at once na ve and revealing views on things like religion and race. The main flaw is also a feature: Harri's a very well-drawn 11-year-old, and no matter how cute he and his worldview are, it's sometimes tempting to want to pat him on the head and send him along his way.