Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: Boy21 by Matthew Quick

Boy 21 by Matthew Quick
Reviewed by Noelle: May 9, 2012
Published March 5, 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Goodreads • Buy on AmazonKindle 

Finley's entire life is basketball and he trains tirelessly even though he's nowhere near the best player on the team.  As his dad says, effort can outwork talent.  Basketball consumes his every waking thought and he wouldn't have it any other way.  Without basketball and the team he'd have too much time to remember all of the things he's desperate to forget.  Russ is new to town, a basketball phenom whose love of the game died with his parents.  Now he's calling himself Boy21, saying he's an alien life form and obsessed with outer space.  Can Finley do as his coach asks and somehow help Russ, even if it means giving up his hard earned starting spot?
"Sometimes a player's greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team."
--Scottie Pippen 
"No matter how good one player is defensively, he's only as good as his help defense." (source)
And that is exactly what Boy21 is about---except Matthew Quick isn't talking about basketball.  He's talking about life.  Sure, basketball brings Finley and Russ together and at different times and in different ways it acts as a savior for both boys.  But as all consuming and amazing and beautiful as it can be, both Finley and Russ are forced to experience how tragedy can make anything insignificant--even your heretofore reason for living.  Sometimes it doesn't matter how much you love something.  Real life has a way of changing your priorities and when it does, it's the team you have around you that counts.

All of Matthew Quick's trademarks are here: rough neighborhood, sad histories, finding (non-romantic) love in a hopeless place, unconventional friendships and support systems, a tragic event, and behind it all a hope so earnest it's almost hard to endure.  

There's a shift in direction between the first and second half and I think there is some confusion created by the change of focus.  Some decisions and conclusions seem very abrupt.  Still, there's much to love about Boy 21, especially the relationships between Finley, his dad and Pops and Finley and Russ.  Like Sorta Like a Rock Star, the ending is a little too convenient to seem wholly realistic but by the time you get there you are so won over by the protagonists that you are willing to forgive just about anything to believe good things can happen for them.

You might not know this about me but I'm a huge basketball fan.  Obviously I loved reading such a well done basketball book.  It's fitting though that I finished this book the same night I watched my favorite team get eliminated in the NBA playoffs.  But instead of being bummed, thanks to Matthew Quick, maybe tonight I'll go out on my porch, look at the stars and think about things bigger than basketball.

Rating: 3.5 stars with an inclination to round up to 4 stars.


  1. I admit that I don't really get all. But I've been wanting to read Matthew Quick for a long time. And it sounds like basketball is just a back-drop in this one. I think I'll start with Sorta Like A Rock Star though. :) Great review today!

    1. Thanks Catie! Definitely start with Sorta Like a Rock Star. It took me awhile to adjust to Amber Appleton (main character) but by the end she had won me over and then some. It's a great intro to Quick's style. --N

  2. I've only seen a few reviews of this book and didn't really understand what it was about, but I feel like I do now, Noelle! I like that it's YA about two boys and I still want to read it, even if the book gets a bit wishy-washy in the 2nd half!

    1. Thanks Mandee! Matthew Quick is really special. Don't get me wrong some of my favorite scenes happen in the second half, the focus is just divided in some unexpected ways :) I hope you check it out! --N

  3. I love that last line, Noelle. Also, you two are so cute with your love of basketball. I haven't watched an NBA game in eons. I think dinosaurs might've been roaming the earth. I tried a Matthew Quick book (Rockstar) on audio once but it didn't work out.


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