Matthew Quick is a new favorite of mine. After recently reading Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock (reviewed here by Amy) and The Good Luck of Right Now, it made sense I would seek out more writing by Quick. Boy 21 is a quick read (haha, no pun intended…OK, it is possible I meant to do that) but a powerful one. Finley lives for basketball and his girlfriend (who may, in fact, be better at basketball than he is). They plan to use basketball to get themselves out of Bellmont–they know staying in this town will surely result in them turning into metaphorical zombies like Erin’s parents, or worse (Finley’s mother is dead and his grandfather’s legs are missing and his father works at a toll booth–the future does not look bright).
Before their senior year, though, Finley’s coach makes a special request–look out for Russ, or Boy 21, as he calls himself. Finley becomes Boy 21’s personal point guard, and then his friend. Russ has lived through a tragedy and the only way he seems to be able to function is to imagine he’s an alien here on earth, and will rejoin his parents soon. Finley and Russ become close, and even begin a Harry Potter book club with teammate Wes, the only other guy on the team in AP English. Things seem to be going well, until tragedy strikes again.
I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but this book allows you to quickly identify with Finley, Erin, and Russ–all of whom are outsiders in one way or another. There are some great moments in the text, and the end is hopeful.
As usual, here are some favorite quotes:
- “You can lose yourself in repetition–quiet your thoughts; I learned the value of this at a very young age.”
- Finley’s Dad gives him advice: “it’s a long race and you can always outwork talent in the end.”
- “I’ve found that being blunt sometimes makes life easier for everyone.”
- Erin, on why Finley is likable: “you don’t put demands on people and you never say anything negative–ever. So many people suck the life out of everyone they’re around, but you don’t do that. You give people strength just by being you.”
- Pop, Finley’s grandfather tells him “It’s hard to be special” and “you don’t always get to pick the role you’re going to play in life, but its good to play whatever role you got the best way you can.”
- “I think about how fragile people are, how anyone can disappear in a second and be gone forever.”
- “We’re stories too.”