Boy21 – Matthew Quick
Well… What a peculiar book.
I’ve not read anything by Matthew Quick before, Forgive me Leonard Peacock and Silver Lining Playbook are both on my TBR list, so when I saw Boy21 for offer on Bookbridgr, I had to request it! I don’t think that reading it has put me off picking up anything else he’s written, but it was a bit of an odd one, I’m still not entirely sure what I think of it.
Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in gray, broken Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish Mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, he takes care of his disabled grandfather, and at school he’s called “White Rabbit”, the only white kid on the varsity basketball team. He’s always dreamed of getting out somehow with his girlfriend, Erin. But until then, when he puts on his number 21, everything seems to make sense.
Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. A former teen basketball phenom from a privileged home, his life has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he now answers only to the name Boy21—his former jersey number—and has an unusual obsession with outer space.
As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need.
See, here’s the thing, I don’t know anything about basket ball, I have no interest in basket ball. So, for this to keep my attention was already a tall order. It sort of manged to, but like I said, it was kind of peculiar.
So, Boy21 is an actual character in this book, not the lead one, but a character nonetheless, his real name is Russ, but he prefers to go by Boy21, our main character Finley, plays as number 21 (did I get that terminology right? I don’t know ANYTHING about basketball) in the school squad and because of his background, which is revealed really late on in the story without much real exploration, he is asked to buddy up to Boy21, because he too has a traumatic past, which is revealed really early on, again, without much exploration.
I didn’t dislike this book… But I’m not entirely sure why I don’t feel happier having read it. The story was ok and actually, it was kind of refreshing reading about kids just becoming friends with each other and seeing a platonic relationship develop. I thought that Boy21/Russ/whatever you want to call him and Finley’s friendship was really cute and developed really well. I also liked Finley and Erin’s relationship and how comfortable they were with each other and their families. I also think it was really cool having a character with post traumatic stress, like Boy21, even if I didn’t feel like his story was given much justice, and a character with selective mutism, I know someone IRL who suffers from this and it was the first time that I’ve ever come across it in a book, but like I said, Finley’s experiences and the fact that he has selective mutism, aren’t really given the time and attention that they needed and was instead just chucked at us all at once at the end. I think having that as a backdrop throughout the whole thing would have given it a much different edge and probably would have excited me a little more.
The blurb mentions that the town the characters live in has a lot of racial tension and is ruled by an Irish Mob, Finley and Erin are both Irish, but aren’t tied to the mob in anyway, I always thought there was honour amongst mobsters, maybe I’m wrong, but I kind of thought that as the town is run by the Irish and these two were Irish, that maybe, they would be much safer than Boy21 was, but it didn’t really turn out that way. I think my main irk with the book is that we didn’t get enough hints about the socio-political situation of the town and the school and we certainly didn’t get enough of an insight into how living in a place controlled by a mob really affected the characters. Even when the big reveal happened, it wasn’t done with enough emphasis to really cause too much of an affect on me.
I’m gonna River you a moment, so, if you’ve read this, read on to see if you shared the same thought as I did at the big reveal, if not SPOILER, so like, wait until you see Andrew Garfield, then start reading again.
So, just so you are warned THERE IS A SPOILER that is about to go down!
So, like, with the reveal about what happened to Finley’s mum, what caused him to stop speaking and all that, why in the name of all that is holy did his dad decide to just carry on living in this town? I don’t know about you, but if my wife had been murdered, my son kidnapped and my father in law mutilated by people of the same nationality as me, I probably wouldn’t stick around. Is that just me? If you’ve also read this book, did I miss something? Please help me understand! And, like if you haven’t I DID WARN YOU ABOUT THE SPOILER.
Anyway, that moment left me looking like this:
There, you’re safe now, you’ve seen Andrew Garfield.
Anyway, despite a few things that could have been done better, I found this to be ok, like I said, I don’t know anything about basketball and after reading this, I still don’t know anything about basket ball, which I liked, there wasn’t loads of technical sporty talk or anything. I think this whole all encompassing sport thing is an American invention. I live in the UK and here people tend to avoid doing sport in school if they can help it and they certainly don’t pin their hopes of going to university on whether or not they’re any good at playing a sport. So, it was nice that although the main crux of the story is that Finley plays basketball and is hoping to play well enough to get through school and Erin is also pinning all her her dreams on being able to play basket ball well enough to get out of their town and Boy21 used to play in the same position as Finley, the story is more about Boy21 and Finley’s friendship, how they learn to be ok with themselves by just spending time together and gaining strength through another person. So really, it doesn’t matter so much that their backstories weren’t told all that well, because at its heart, this is a book about friendship, something I tend to see very little of, and that element was spot on.
(In case you didn’t know, I’m part of bookbridgr now, this was one of the many books supplied by them for a review, so like, click the big green thing in the corner to find out more.)