OFF TRACK | Kirkus Reviews


Common wisdom says we cannot run from our problems, but for Kayla and Joel, running may solve them.

Black Trinidadians Kayla Francis and Joel de Freitas are two rising track stars from Gomes Lands, a place people like to “cry down” for its poverty and crime. Kayla’s mother works two jobs to provide for her and her two sisters, but it is never enough. Kayla believes doing well at the CARIFTA trials, or Caribbean regional games, will be the ticket to sponsorships, qualifying for the Olympics, and a chance at stability. Joel de Freitas, however, is not looking to carry his family; in some ways he’s trying to leave it behind, specifically the shadow of his absent former-runner father, George. It’s not the first time he’s been abandoned, as his mother stayed in the United States, leaving G, his grandmother, to raise him. According to Joel, G is all the family he needs. As the two athletes inch closer to the CARIFTA games and to each other, more problems are thrown at their feet both on and off the track. Written from Joel’s and Kayla’s alternating points of view, readers are treated to both sides of the story and can see how they influence one another. The Trinidadian dialect roots the story firmly in the Caribbean, adding to the rich sense of place and showcasing the layers of modern island life. The characters reflect how many teenagers take the influences of family, friends, coaches, and figure things out on their own: Burdens we bear don’t feel as heavy when carried together.

A beautiful and uplifting read.

(Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: today

ISBN: 978-976-8267-32-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Blouse & Skirt Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020





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