Throughout the entire book, main main events involve TJ, and quite a few of these incidents, were caused or at least partially caused by him.
Early on in the book, TJ is spreading rumours about Stacey's and Cassie's mom, and this reflects on him very negatively. He appears irritating, and he is making fun of Little Man, who is very small and knows little about "death". TJ is made out to be a person that is not meant to be liked. If you picked up on this at that point in the book, you might not feel sympathetic at all throughout the remainder of the book.
During Chapter 3, TJ is the cause of Stacey, Cassie, Christopher-John, Little Man and himself getting covered in mud. While Stacey wanted to stay undercover until the bus had passed, TJ kept on pestering him until Stacey ordered the troop to move out on to the road.
Sadly TJ's decision wasn't good, and all the children got plastered in mud. TJ is then shunned by Stacey and the others. You could have two views on this situation; either you pity TJ, as he was trying to be early to school, but his plan backfired, or you could consider him annoying and arrogant because he tempted fate and lost while trying to boost his own ego.
Mr and Mrs Avery were TJ's guardians and they are being constantly pestered by the white folk. This probably doesn't make TJs life any more enjoyable. This indicates the TJ had a troubled childhood, and this makes him seem a victim of society. He felt neglected, and now is showing this by trying to do his best to stop himself from being a social outcast. You are meant to pity him at this point, because...