Author: Matthew Quick
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 5, 2012
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Summary from Goodreads: 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.
Review: This book has been on my radar for awhile - I’ve seen it on other bloggers’ lists, I know of other teachers who use it for a read aloud - and, yet, I’ve never picked it up. When I saw it on the 2106 Abe Lincoln list, I decided now was the time to read this book - I am SO glad I did! Since having Ella, reading hasn’t been a focus for me; Boy21 is the first book I’ve read, start to finish, in one day since becoming a mom.
I’m not quite sure what it is that drew me so completely into the story: the characters, the storyline, or the ease of the writing. I know I started the book because of the plot. I have a lot of boy readers that always want sports books. Admittedly, this is a reading gap of mine. When I saw Boy21 focused on basketball, I knew this could be a great recommendation for some of my students. Yes, it is about basketball. It’s a common thread throughout the book. But, really, this book goes WELL beyond sports (like how Winger isn’t really a book about rugby). As a reader, you feel compassion, you feel uncomfortable, you feel stunned...it’s all there.
Quick gets the reader to feel so many feels through his beautifully developed characters. I know I want a friend like Finley. Someone who will do anything for you even when he doesn’t want to. Someone who is unspeakably loyal and loves what he loves so fiercely. And, Russ/Boy21? My heart breaks for him. When you see his heartbreak on the page, you can’t do anything but want to reach in and wrap him up in a hug.
So, even though this book appeals to the sports crowd, it goes well beyond that. It teaches the reader about people, about how we handle tragedies that might come out way. Would you be like Finely and erase them from your memory, or would you be like Russ and create another world for you to exist in? Either way, we need to think about what those around us are going through before we jump to conclusions - that’s what Quick teaches us through his novel.
Who Should Read It? This book appeals to many different readers. I know my sports readers will pick this one up because of the basketball thread, but I also know fans of realistic fiction (like myself) will fly through this book. It has tension (you don’t really know Finley’s story until the very end), it has great characters, and it is a quick read - a perfect combination for readers of all kinds.