Barbara's Reviews > Boy21

Boy21 by Matthew Quick
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Feb 19, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: bullies
Read in February, 2012

** spoiler alert ** Brains and athletic prowess have long been touted as avenues for social and economic mobility. For Finley McManus, basketball promises to help him leave behind the neighborhood where he grew up. Divided between the Irish mob and African-American drug-runners, Bellmont is not a pretty place, and Finley and his basket-playing girlfriend dream of escaping its violence and poverty. When his basketball coach enlists Finley's help in supporting a transfer student from California, the athlete does as his coach asks, even though it may mean that he will lose his own starting position on the team. Russ, who prefers to be called Boy21, is recovering from the murder of his parents, and claims to be an extraterrestrial. As the boys grow closer, the similarities in their lives become more readily apparent. While Russ spins elaborate an elaborate space fantasy, Finley remains silent, failing to stand up even when classmates pile carrots on his plate at lunch because his nickname is White Rabbit and when his girlfriend is disrespected by others. A tragedy involving Erin causes Finley to lose interest in everything else in his life. The author's exploration of love, loss, and second chances will remind readers of the power of hope and the coping mechanisms used by the human mind and heart as they heal. For me, the first two-thirds of the book are exceptionally strong, but the title uses steam once Erin disappears. While the long-reaching arms of kingpins who rule over communities frozen by fear that extends over generations and guarantees silence is described clearly here, I was saddened once Finley realizes the price his own family has paid for their mistakes. Although I hope for the best for Erin and Finley, I'm not sure how safe they will be in the end or how realistic it is to hope for a happy ending in their case. As Finley makes his escape, thanks to mob money, I wonder how long it will be before someone comes to collect what is owed. This provocative title is sure to inspire much debate about the choices each of the characters makes. Wow! The book's layers allow the characters to be drawn in a complex fashion as readers--and characters--discover small and large truths throughout the pages.
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