Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in broken-down Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, his dad works nights and Finley is left alone to take care of his disabled grandfather. He's always dreamed of somehow getting out, but until he can, putting on that number 21 jersey makes everything seem okay. Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. The life of this teen basketball phenom has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he won't pick up a basketball, and yet answers only to the name Boy21—taken from his former jersey number. As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, "Boy21" may turn out to be the answer they both need. Matthew Quick, the acclaimed author of Sorta Like a Rock Star, brings readers a moving novel about hope, recovery, and redemption. ~From GoodReads
Taking place on the rough, gang and mob run streets of Bellmont, Pennsylvania, BOY21 centers around the reserved, dedicated Finley McManus. Finley's world is centered around basketball. His every waking moment is focused on working towards a future away from Bellmont, with his equally basketball driven girlfriend Erin. It's a future they're convinced only basketball will give them. When Russ Washington moves to Bellmont, Finley's coach forces him to befriend Russ. Russ' parents have been murdered, leading to his mental breakdown. He only answers to the name Boy21. When Finley realizes helping Russ may lead to the loss of what he holds most important, he discovers what his life is really worth living for.
I don't even know where to begin with BOY21. The short answer would be: it blew me away. This book, so quiet and internally focused within Finley, doesn't offer big action sequences or fireworks. But the quiet desperation Finley experiences, the sheer resolve he exhibits in the face of his obstacles does what the huge, explosive moments in books often don't. They left me, as the reader, wide open, exposed. I felt so drawn in to Finley's experiences that there were moments I held my breath, waiting for his reaction, or tearing up, as he struggled to do what was right.
BOY21 is largely about emotional trauma and its effect on the young psyche. Finley, who underwent a horrific experience as a child, deals with his through basketball, using the order of the routines to hold tight to control amongst the chaos. Russ is a basketball prodigy. After the death of his parents, though, he gives up basketball to become Boy 21, and believes himself to be an alien, awaiting his parents to return to Earth to take him away. He focuses on outer space; the stars, the galaxies, and uses that to maintain control over the remains of his life, and possibly keep others at a distance. Finley believes he will be the one to help Russ, if he can at all. Never realizing that Russ, although he appears to be a bit insane, may be helping him in turn.
I believe there are certain books out there that if presented to the right person at the right time, have the ability to change lives. BOY21 could be that book for teen boys. Don't get me wrong. This book could and should be enjoyed by everyone, but there is something about it that makes me want to put a copy in the hands of every boy I know. Finley is an everyman. He could be the next young man who crosses your path. He doesn't have a special paranormal ability, nor is he the guy all the girls want. But he is a hard-working, loyal, respectful and caring person who always tries to do the right thing, no matter the cost to himself. Any young man can find a piece of themselves in his character. As a parent, I can't wait for the day I'm able to put this book in my son's hands. And that, is a gift.
Favorite Quote ~
"I think I know what's best for Russell.
I think about what good friends do.
I take off my number 21 practice jersey and toss it to Boy21." (pg.115)
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published March 5th 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
You can purchase BOY21 at:
Source: Received from publisher for review.