Author: Matthew Quick
Release Date: June 19th 2014
Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review
It's never been easy for Finley, particularly at home. But two things keep him going: his place on the basketball team and his girlfriend, Erin - the light in even the darkest of his days.
Then Russ arrives. He answers only to Boy21, claims to be from outer space, and also has a past he wants to escape. He's one of the best high school basketball players in the country and threatens to steal Finley's starting position.
Against all the odds, Russ and Finley become friends. Russ could change everything for Finley, both for better and for worse. But sometimes the person you least expect can give you the courage to face what's gone before ...and work out where you're going next.
Julies Thoughts :
Boy21 … man, so many feels I don’t know where to start.
Okay, so we have Finley, who thinks, despite being poor, he has pretty much all he needs in life: Erin and basketball. However, when new guy Russ moves into town and coach assigns Finley the task of befriending Russ, Finley has no idea just how much his life is about to change. Because there’s a lot more to coach’s request than meets the eye.
Meet Russ. Ex-awesome basketball player, son of famous basketball player, and damaged teen due to the recent deaths of both parents, Russ comes home to live with his grandparents. And he’s definitely damaged, and coping in the only way he knows how, in the only way he knows to stay close to his parents—but it’s a way that not many people will understand, or tolerate.
Coach, however, has a connection to Russ’s father, and he’s seen Russ play, and truly believes the only way Russ can move forward is if he can get him playing ball again. For this, he needs Finley. And Finley can’t tell coach no—even if it will ultimately cost him one of the loves of his own life, his own chance to play ball.
To be honest, there are so many layers to Boy21, I don’t even know how to begin to describe the story in its entirety. It’s about friendship, and fighting for what you believe in. It’s about sacrifice and inner strength. It’s about dealing with loss, and having the willingness to lean on others for support—as well as recognising when you’re the one who needs to do the leaning. And around all of this is the story’s backdrop of the ghetto—which is so subtly done and downplayed—not in an unbelievable way, because the handling of this aspect just seemed to give it all the more credibility, but it’s so downplayed that you have no idea just where the story is headed, or how dark the path is these kids are following, or how all of the clues dropped to the reader throughout the book will finally weave together.
I don’t know how to explain it any deeper than that without giving an entire rundown of the story and potentially spoiling it for anybody. Just know that I loved pretty much every aspect of this book. I loved every one of the characters—how they were portrayed gave even the smallest of characters depth, which made them as unique as those in the forefront. I loved the descriptions—whilst they weren’t massively present, they were there enough for me. I loved the almost quirky way in which Russ handled his parents death, and how helping Russ to deal with that also helped Finley to recognise and deal with his own. I didn’t love what happened regarding Erin, but not because I thought it made the story bad or didn’t fit, but because I loved the characters and didn’t want anything bad to happen to them. I loved how Finley was so strong and supportive of Russ, even when his narration made it clear that his head wasn’t always happy about the idea, and how his support and encouragement and acceptance helped bring Russ back from the secure bubble he’d wrapped himself, until Russ was the supportive one—because I also loved how unselfish Russ was in return when the roles were reversed and it was Finley who needed him.