Review: Boy21 by Matthew Quick

BOY21 CoverTitle: Boy21, 256 pages

Author: Matthew Quick

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: March 5th, 2012

Interest: Diversity / Sports / Guy appeal

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

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 alone to take care of his disabled grandfather. He’s always dreamed of somehow getting out, but until he can, putting on that number 21 jersey makes everything seem okay.

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

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need. Matthew Quick, the acclaimed author of Sorta Like a Rock Star, brings readers a moving novel about hope, recovery, and redemption.

Plain and simple, Boy21 is a GREAT book.  I was on the search for a quality read aloud for my freshmen English classes, so I picked up Boy21 on a whim.  I wanted to read it anyway, but I kept thinking about my 3rd hour freshmen class that’s primarily boys who don’t enjoy reading.  Boy21 seemed like the perfect fit for them, so I went with my hunch and started reading it.  As soon as I read the first couple chapters I knew I made the right decision.

Finley’s voice really stands out on the page, which is ironic considering he doesn’t like to talk much.  He actually reminds me a little bit of Lucky Linderman from Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King.  Both Lucky and Finley have a sort of innocence about them.  They both have trouble speaking up for themselves, and they also want what’s best for those around them.  Just like Lucky, Finley is an admirable character.

One of the reasons I like Finley is because he’s so loyal to his friends, coach, and family.  When his coach approaches him about helping Boy21 (Russ), Finley doesn’t hesitate to offer his help.  He trusts his coach, so even though he worries that Russ could take his starting position on the basketball team, he still tries to make friends with Russ.  Russ has an obsession with space and refers to himself as Boy21, but he and Finley pair up well.  They’re both amazing basketball players, even though Russ doesn’t show this right away, and they both deal with unfair treatment.  They’re both treated poorly for different reasons, much of which is based on race and rivalry, but it still serves as a bond.  After a startling and tragic turn of events, Finley really grows as a character.  His loyalties are tested and he begins to doubt what’s truly important in his life.  He begins to question his life, where it’s going–if anywhere–and what really happened years ago that caused him to be such a quiet, good kid.  I love being able to witness this kind of characterization, which is one of the biggest reasons I enjoyed Matthew Quick’s novel so much.

Boy21 by Matthew Quick is a novel that appeals to a variety of readers.  My basketball players and sports fiction fans will enjoy the basketball scenes and references in Boy21.  My fans of great contemporary realistic fiction will recognize what a superb example this is of that genre.  Readers will connect with Finley, Erin, and Russ.  They’ll feel the tension and suspense, they’ll laugh out loud, and they might even cry (I did).


  1. This one totally made me choke up at the end — it was the Hogwarts moment when I was a goner. Such a great book, and I think you’re right about how Finley was similar to Lucky. I didn’t make that connection.

    • Mrs. Andersen says:

      I was pretty teary through the last 20 pages or so. I kept thinking about Lucky when I was reading this book, but Lucky is much more innocent and naive than Finley. I’m almost 30 pages in with my freshmen classes, and I think they like it so far.

  2. I can’t wait to read this one. I read and LOVED Sorta Like a Rock Star by Mathew Quick so I’m excited to read another story by him. Thanks for the review 🙂

    • Mrs. Andersen says:

      I started Sorta Like a Rock Star but something about the voice threw me off. I’ll have to come back to it since it’s raved about so much.

  3. I loved this book, even though I’m not an avid reader, I finished this book in one day.


  1. […] by Matthew Quick (Goodreads) (My Review)–I’m actually in the middle of reading Boy21 aloud for the first time.  I’m […]

  2. […] Finley & Russ–Finley and Russ from Matthew Quick’s Boy 21 have to be listed together because they’re equally wonderful.  Finley is the narrator, but he’s very quiet and simply doesn’t talk much.  He’s also very loyal to his family, his girlfriend, his basketball team, and his coach.  He’s a character you cheer for and grow attached to.  Russ is suffering after the death of his parents and refers to himself as Boy 21, a person who will be going back to space any day now.  He and Finley are paired up for a variety of reasons.  They’re journey together and growing friendship is heartwarming and heartbreaking.  (My review) […]

  3. […] Love – “Readers will connect with Finley, Erin, and Russ” Novel Thoughts – “I screamed ‘YES’ like some kind of hyped up adrenaline […]

  4. […] 21 by Matthew Quick (My review): This book will forever be a favorite of mine. It fits so many categories and no matter how many […]

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