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YA Review: Boy21 by Matthew Quick

Title: Boy21

Author: Matthew Quick

Year Published: 2013

Category: YA fiction
Pages: 272
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map)USA (PA)

Summary (from Amazon): 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 to take care of his disabled grandfather alone. He's always dreamed of getting out someday, but until he can, putting on that number 21 jersey makes everything seem okay.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood, and 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, but answers only to the name Boy21--taken from his former jersey number.

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, a unique friendship may turn out to be the answer they both need.

Review: I was looking for a book by an author whose last name began with Q and a librarian friend recommended this book. Thank you Kayleen as this book is wonderful. And, then I realized I didn't need an author with Q, but I don't care because this book was well worth the read!

WAIT! I went to add this review to my list by author and title and it turns out I read it 6 years ago! I liked it better this time around and this is a better write up, so I'm keeping it here. 🤣

Finley is a quiet kid who lives with his father and grandfather and we know his mother has died, but we don't know the details (they are revealed, but near the end of the book). We know the tragedy of Russ' parents from the get-go and we see how Russ/Boy21 is dealing with it (odd clothing, saying he is an extraterrestrial, and more). I love the friendship between these two teenagers. They bring something good out in each other and help the other to figure out what matters in their lives.

As the summary suggests, there is a lot going on in the town of Belmont, most of it not good. There are generations of the Irish mob, whose dealings trickle down in ways that the boys don't see even though it affects their daily lives.

The ending is satisfying even though it isn't necessarily a happy one. There is hope and potential, which is the most we can dream about for these characters. Quick has written a novel that does well with students at my local junior high and adults can appreciate it, too.

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Diversity
  • Literary Escapes--New Hampshire (only a very small portion takes place here, but it is key to the story)

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