Monday 3 October 2016

BOY21 by Matthew Quick

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.

After absolutely loving Every Exquisite Thing, Ashleigh from Hachette Australia was kind enough to send me a few more Matthew Quick books.

As soon as I read the blurbs, I couldn't wait to get stuck into them and decided to start with this one.

Finley lives with his hardworking father and disabled grandfather in a not-so-great neighbourhood. There are a lot of bad things in Bellmont: drugs, gangs and the Irish mob. But Finley stays out of trouble and loves basketball. He might be the only white guy on the team, but he's good and the other players respect him. Even his  best friend Erin--who also happens to be his girlfriend--plays basketball, so he surrounds himself with the sport. He also doesn't talk much. 

Something traumatic happened to his family when he was a kid, and since then he's chosen not to speak much.

When his coach asks him to befriend a new boy called Russ, Finley's simple routine is suddenly thrown out. Russ used to be a hotshot basketball player who now lives with his grandparents. He prefers to be called Boy21 and claims he's from outer space. But Finley knows this kid has been through his own traumatic event and this is how he's dealing with everything.

As much as Finley helps his new friend and welcomes him into his life, he also resents that he plays the same position. But Finley's one of the good guys, so he steps aside for the sake of the team. When someone he cares deeply about is seriously hurt, his priorities become so much clearer...

Oh my. This book is so quietly good. It's the kind of story that first appears to be simple and even a little bland, but it doesn't take long for the brilliance to shine through.

Finley might be an outwardly quiet guy, but he's got a lot on his mind. He thinks a lot and wants to actually say even more. But he doesn't. He knows it's best not to speak up, until he realises that sometimes you don't have a choice. And I loved Erin. She's such a strong and cool character who understands people's oddities and loves them anyway.

I found Russ fascinating, and even liked Wes. The three become friends because of a Harry Potter book, which was cute. The adults were less likeable. His father and pop are kind, but really damaged and full of secrets. His coach is a selfish jerk who pretty much takes advantage of Finley's good nature. And his counselor was enigmatic.

Boy21 is another amazing Matthew Quick book with memorable characters and a lot of heart. It's another unconventional story about friendship, loyalty and the sins of the past. I also loved that even though I'm not a fan of basketball, I was totally engaged all the way through.

I can't wait to read more books by this great author. 

BTW, I love the super bright cover!

Boy21, June 2014, ISBN 9781472212917, Headline

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