My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Goodreads: 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.
My take: I really liked Matthew Quick's last book, Sorta Like a Rock Star so I was eager to read this one. Themes are similar although protagonist and storyline is different. The story endears the reader to Finley, a minimal talker and even to Russ, Boy21. He is purported to be an amazing basketball player and, it will surprise nobody, that he turns out to be an amazing basketball player. The bare bones of it is that the book is about priorities, friendship, and family.
Finley has his life planned out and a solid time table. He has his best friend who is also his girlfriend. They both play ball and make out on his roof. When basketball season comes around, Finley breaks up with her so he can concentrate on the game. All is in order. Except that it's not. There are secrets that surprise you and turns you didn't see coming, although there is foreshadowing with the entrance of Boy21, a traumatized 17 year old who chooses an alternate reality to deal with the murder of his parents.
Eventually, both boys will need to accept their circumstances. But through the tough times, they become friends. They discover there is a time to talk and a time to be silent. It's a good book and I enjoyed it almost as much as the author's previous novel. Relatively clean. Swearing is minimum. Dialogue has occasional alternative names for body parts but mostly clean. No blood but violence is in the boys' past. I wouldn't give this book to a sensitive or young teen but I would still highly recommend it.