Boy21 by Matthew Quick | Teen Ink

Boy21 by Matthew Quick

February 15, 2014
By Caesar123 DIAMOND, Union Grove, Wisconsin
Caesar123 DIAMOND, Union Grove, Wisconsin
50 articles 7 photos 103 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Madness in great ones must not unwatched go" --Claudius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

I think I may already know what you’re thinking. This looks like a username. Something you’d come across on some sort of social networking site. I can assure it’s not. Boy21 by Matthew Quick is not some passing meme. It is a thought provoking novel, that makes you question life, love, and justice.

The story starts with a preface telling the back-story of our main character and hero; Finley McManus. At a young age Finley begins shooting hoops in his backyard. At the same time he meets the neighbor girl. Her name is Erin, and she just so happens to be the same age as Finley. They shoot hoops together.

Fast forward to their later years. Finley and Erin are seniors in high school, dating, and starting on the boys and girls basketball team respectively. As the story goes, their little town, that of Bellmont, is not an idyllic paradise. Quite the opposite. Boarded up, defunct, and rundown public housing. Theft. Drugs. Murder. Gangs. Even an Irish mob, believe it or not. Erin and Finley (both white and of Irish descent) get by with the aid of Erin’s brother, Rod, the leader of the Irish mob. They are protected. Finley is the team’s point guard and has a solid repertoire with the other starters on the basketball squad, even though most of them are black. They call him White Rabbit, and as a minimalist speaker, Finley’s okay with that.

That is until his coach pulls him from Erin’s arms one night and asks something of him. There is a new kid in town, and his name is Russell Allen. He came from out west, specifically L.A. He’s a basketball sensation, heavily recruited by numerous colleges, and even piquing interest from the NBA. So what’s he got to do with Bellmont? His affluent parents were murdered back in California, and he’s come to Bellmont to be with his grandparents, to live with them until he goes off to play basketball at a higher level.

Coach asks Finley to shadow Russ. To help him and keep him safe on Bellmont’s perilous streets. And perhaps most importantly, to get him to play basketball for Bellmont High. The only catch? The only irony? Russell Allen is also a point guard. And he won’t play unless he can have his number, the one Finley just so happens to wear. Number 21.

Now perhaps any other way, all of this would blow over, nice and smooth. Russ would play for Bellmont, win a state championship, and attract attention from varied big-time colleges. The only problem? Russ hasn’t exactly been himself since his parents’ murder. He speaks of the stars, of the cosmos. He believes that he is an android sent to collect data on human emotions. He believes that his dead parents are alive among the stars, and will return from him soon. He calls himself Boy21.

Though it may not look it from either the cover, or the title, this is not your typical fictional sports story. At the same time, what Matthew Quick has produced is not entirely foreign to us. The bleak streets of Bellmont that he paints are ones we’ve seen before. The crime, the cover-up, and the pain that the characters of this story are put through has been seen. It has been known. But this book offers a completely different outlook on it all. It puts us right in the middle of this broken world Quick’s characters call home, and makes us look at it all through the eyes of someone who’s lived it from day one.

Of course there is the saga of sports, but it turns out to be so much more than just a basketball game. Quick ties the game to the grim reality, and vice versa, but not with dead-beaten clichés. Instead, he uses a realistic approach unparalleled today. He uses insightful and thought-provoking narrative, and he does it through the words of a minimalist speaker.

If you are looking for action, or sci-fi, or even a sports epic, you will not find it here. Instead, what will be discovered is a prose of passion, triumph, defeat, misery, and perhaps even a new beginning. Boy21 is a magnificent tale that wraps all of these up, coherently and in a way that can only be described as compelling. You will think when you read this novel. And that’s a good thing.

I rate it 4.5/5 stars.

The author's comments:
I read this book as part of my school’s Battle of the Books competition. If you like this review, check out my profile, as I will be posting other reviews of the B.O.B. books as soon as possible. Thanks!

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