Boy21 by Matthew Quick; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Boy21

Author: Matthew Quick

Published: June 2013

Number of Pages: 250

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

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 [From Goodreads]

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.”

Review:

As you would know if you were following my blog long ago when I posted a review of Sorta Like a Rockstar, I’m sorta like a Matthew Quick fan. I loved SLARS because it was inspiring and sweet and funny all at the same time. Those were the qualities I was hoping to find in Boy21, and each was represented in a quirky, highly unusual way.

I suppose that’s what stood out most about Boy21. It is a charmingly unusual book. I can honestly say that I have never read anything like it. It deals with issues that I see on TV but have never experienced through a novel, and it deals with them in a way that makes them accessible. Somehow, I found that I was able to understand Finley’s situation, though I’ve never experienced anything even remotely close to what he does. His environment and family are vastly different from mine, but Quick illustrates them in a simple but detailed way that allowed me to feel entirely immersed in Finley’s life.

And, as he did in SLARS, Matthew Quick has introduced readers to another set of wildly lovable characters. For me, there was a distinct sense that I was being introduced to these people, as opposed to a sense that they had been created to tell a story. This story belongs to them, not to the reader or the author. When I realize that, I know that a book is good. The characters have lives of their own, a presence, a realness to them that allows the reader to befriend them. I loved that little attributes of the characters took on more significance as the story was relayed – take Finley’s quietness, for instance.

In fact, that is one of the most remarkable features of the novel – seemingly innocuous things have hidden significance. I eventually realized that this book is a riddle to be puzzled out before it’s understood. As I neared the end, all the little details that had been clattering about in my head fit themselves together into a very complete and very beautiful story of the lives of two boys. It became undeniable that the story belongs to both of them and that it was absolutely essential that Finley and Russ became friends.

If there’s one way to make Madeleine happy, it’s to make friendship a key part of a novel, and that’s what Matthew Quick seems to have done with both SLARS and Boy21. It’s clear that friendship and family have a way of holding together lives that should be falling apart. I find that to be quite inspiring and true. So does Finley, in the end. And that’s why I loved Boy21.

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