Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Friday, August 30, 2013

Plot Summary:
Finley McManus didn't know what to expect when he Coach asked him to hang out with Russell (AKA. Boy21) and when he met him, his whole life changed. Finley was born in raised in one of the roughest cities in Pennsylvania. Surrounded by violence, the Irish mob, and plenty of racial tension, Finley earned the name "White Rabbit" because of his quiet demeanor and athletic prowess. As the point guard for his high school basketball team, Finley is the unsung hero for the team because, without him, there is no way his team would be as good as they are. Whenever he is not practicing with his girlfriend, Erin,who happens to be a basketball player as well, he keeps to himself and spends most of his time on the court and away from the drama at his home. What was supposed to be a quiet night with Erin, Coach showed up at his house to ask him a favor. Russ, the son of a Coach's close friend, who was recently murdered is the favor. Although Finley isn't sure why Coach chose him to help, it turns out that Russ is a basketball phenomenon, who has refused to play basketball. In fact, the death of his parents has rattled him so much that he think he is an alien named as Boy21, which also happen to be Finley's basketball number. Finley believes that Coach is asking him to convince Russ  to try out for the basketball team, which has him worries. When Finley met Boy21, for the first time, not only did he a giant man-child, he met a person who truly believed he was from outer space. Whether this act was Russ' coping mechanism, or he was just out of his mind, Finley agreed to Boy21's "resource" on human behavior. The only problem that Finley could foresee is that he's white and Boy21 is black. Black and white kids didn't really interact at their high school so Finley had not idea what would happen when he showed up to school with Russ. Luckily, with time, patience, and understanding, Finley and Boy21 have developed a friendship that would not only change the dynamics of their school, but allow them to heal and hope for a better future.

Critical Evaluation:
Honestly, I am still amazed that issues like this still exist. This is the year 2013 and one would think that we could get over differences like skin color and get on with our lives. The sad reality is that cities, like Bellmont, are still plagued with issues of race and rampant violence. For Finley, it's normal to come to school and be frisked by the police to make sure he didn't have any dangerous weapons and that his neighborhood is run by the Irish mob. On top of living in an armpit of city, he also has to care for his disabled grandfather and do as much as he can for his father since his mother left. I think what I appreciate the most about Finley's character is his sincerity and desire to see his father happy. At the same time, it is hard to see him struggle because someone his age should not have to carry the burdens and responsibilities that he has. As for Russell, he grew up in the suburbs and attended a private academy where he not only excelled in basketball, but he was a genius! Finley is an average student, but, when compared to Russell, they were light years away from one another. However, Finley has something that Russell does not have: a family (broken), but still a family. Although these two characters have very little in common, they compliment each other because Boy21 intrigues Russ and Russ appreciates Finley's "calming presence." Furthermore, Russ has the voice that Finley has yet to find and that is what makes this pairing ideal because they give one another the courage to become who they want to be. Quick has done an excellent job in conveying to teen readers the harsh reality of life and that when things get tough, we have to overcome our demons and live the life we were given.    

Information about the Author:
According to his website:
Matthew Quick (aka Q) is the New York Times bestselling author of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, which was made into an Oscar-winning film, and three young adult novels: SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR; BOY21; and FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK. His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages, received a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention, was an LA Times Book Prize finalist, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a #1 bestseller in Brazil, and selected by Nancy Pearl as one of Summer’s Best Books for NPR. His next novel for adults, THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in February 2014. All of Q’s books have been optioned for film.
Q was born and spent the first few years of his life in Philadelphia before being raised just across the Delaware River in Oaklyn, New Jersey. He graduated from Collingswood High School (class of 1992) and La Salle University (class of 1996), where he double-majored in English and secondary education. He taught literature and film at Haddonfield Memorial High School in New Jersey for several years, during which he coached soccer and basketball, chaperoned trips to Peru and Ecuador, initiated a pen-pal exchange with students in Namibia, and counseled troubled teens.
In 2004 Q made the difficult decision to leave teaching and pursue his dream of becoming a fiction writer. He received his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College in 2007. He now lives in Massachusetts with his wife, novelist/pianist Alicia Bessette.

Teen Lit for Guys,Teen Sports Lit

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Boy21:
  • Whale Talk by Christopher Crutcher
  • Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

"The answers here are satisfying but never simple...A story that, like Finley, expresses a lot in relatively few words."
(Kirkus, starred review)

"Beautiful...It is this depth that makes "Boy21" more than a first-rate novel fueled by basketball; it's a first-rate work of art." (The New York Time Book Review)

"Every aspect of this multilayered novel harmonizes...excellently set-up twists display Quick's mastery of pacing; authentic dialogue and deft character development ensure both our emotional investment in these richly complex boys and also our empathizing with their main commonality--feeling like "you're not the person on the outside that you are on the inside."" (The Horn Book)

"His emotionally raw tale retains a delicate sense of hope and optimism, making it a real gut punch of a read." (Publishers Weekly)

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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