Little, Brown Books For Young Readers – Published March 5th 2012.
Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in gray, broken Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish Mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, he takes care of his disabled grandfather, and at school he’s called “White Rabbit”, the only white kid on the varsity basketball team. He’s always dreamed of getting out somehow with his girlfriend, Erin. But until then, when he puts on his number 21, everything seems to make sense.
Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. A former teen basketball phenom from a privileged home, his life has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he now answers only to the name Boy21—his former jersey number—and has an unusual obsession with outer space.
As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need.
I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Little, Brown Books For Young Readers and to Bookbridgr.
“You can lose yourself in repetition – quiet your thoughts; I learned the value of this at a very young age.” – Finley.
When I read the blurb for this book, I really thought it would do absolutely nothing for me. I mean, basketball and space aren’t exactly high on my list of interests. However, ‘Boy21’ has really reinforced the saying, ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’. It’s by Matthew Quick, who also wrote ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘The Good Luck Of Right Now’, both of which I hear fantastic things about and are on my TBR list.
Boy 21 deals with friendship, love, loss, family, priorities and how we all deal with grief in our own way. The book is narrated by Finley, a boy in his last year of high school who is one of the only white boys there and the only one to play for his school’s basketball team. Finley has dealt with the grief of losing his mother by turning inward. He rarely speaks and not many people, other than Erin, his long time girlfriend, and Russ, Boy21, understand him. Russ has dealt with the loss of his parents by pretending they haven’t really died, but are up in space and will be returning for him soon. He does this because it is easier than admitting the truth to himself, and to others who ask.
The book explores how the friendship between Finley and Russ helps them both to come to terms with what has happened to them and how Russ and Finley’s family help him make a life changing decision when something horrific happens to Erin. Finley helps Russ rediscover his love of basketball and Russ shows Finley that basketball is not the be-all and end-all.
I love how Russ uses ‘Harry Potter’ to show Finley that he is in charge of his own destiny. Here’s the quote:
“Someday an opportunity will come. Think about Harry Potter. His life is terrible, but then a letter arrives, he gets on a train, and everything is different for him afterward. Better. Magical.”
“That’s just a story.”
“So are we- we’re stories too.”
We’re stories too. How true is that. I think we all need reminding of that from time to time.
I wasn’t crazy about the first chapter because as I read it, I thought it was setting the tone for an over-sexual book. Finley thinking about Erin and having to calm his “stiffness”. I really don’t need to hear that. I’m no prude but it’s just not necessary. I confess that I almost put this book down after reading that first chapter but what a mistake that would have been. As I read on I was drawn in to the friendship between these two boys and the difficulties that everyone faced in a town ran by drug dealers and the Irish mob.
The ending of this book is both heartbreaking and wonderful. Finley gets his ‘Harry Potter moment’ and Russ gets what he was always destined for. I cried at the end. I give this book the full 5 stars because it is just outstanding. This is not just a book to be enjoyed by young adults. Everyone should read Boy21. It’s full of life lessons and spoke to me in a way that a book hasn’t done in a long time. Just breathtaking and I will definitely be re-reading.