I cannot believe that I’ve read three Matthew Quick books in ONE year. That seems like kind of an indulgence for me. You see, typically I might read one, MAYBE two books by an author within a year but never three. Yet, I could not resist Quick’s books. He’s got this writing style that just speaks to me. I feel like his books are short but each sentence, each phrase gives me an old one-two jab straight in the feelings. Boy21 by Matthew Quick had me feeling apprehensive at first, until I remembered that the previous books of his that I had read (The Silver Linings Playbook and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock) were utterly brilliant in the way the different elements came together to form a whole that is greater than the sum of it’s parts. Boy21 has converted me to the church of Matthew Quick, y’all. (FYI, there is no actual church of MQ, weirdos)
Finley is excited for his upcoming basketball season. He’s not the best on the team, but he has worked so hard for his point guard position. He has put in the time and the effort with his girlfriend, Erin, over the summer and in the preseason. This is the year that Finley will be made captain and will start on the team. Although Finley is relatively well-liked, because he is so quiet, he does not lead a charmed life. His dad works as a toll taker. His grandfather, Pappy, has no legs. Finley does not have a mom. He also lives in a neighborhood that basically borders Philadelphia that is strife with racial tension between Black people and the Irish Mob.
One day, Coach asks a favor of Finley. He wants Finley to befriend an old family friend named Russ. FYI, Russ is built like Lebron James. He also played a point guard position back in California and was scouted by all kinds of college teams. Only, Russ isn’t into basketball anymore. In fact, he is going by the name Boy21. He’s obsessed with space. You see, he’s just sort of shut down after his parents were brutally murdered in LA. Finley, quiet and introspective, accepts Russ for who he is and the two form a tenuous friendship, built on Finley’s “calming presence”. Turns out, Russ and Finley have a LOT in common as you will discover as you unravel Boy21 and hit the various turning points.
Finley basically plays the straight man to Boy21’s quirks and manifestations of his mental issues. I think that he’s a character that most of us will like. Instead of the author telling us that Finley is a good guy with some deep pain in his background, we are shown it. For example, there is this scene where one of the guys on the basketball team is caught reading Harry Potter instead of The Invisible Man and then tries to play it off like they are reading it in AP English. None of the other guys except for Finley and Boy21 are in AP English. So, Finley tells the team that yes, they are reading that. He then convinces Boy21 to borrow Harry Potter from the library and read it for him, just so they can help their teammate keep his cover. I just, I think that’s the best example I can find of Finley as a character and well, his actions describe him better than I can, so you get why I love him.
I thought that I would find Russ/Boy21 annoying because he is kind of a kook. Russ grew on me though. While he does some socially awkward things, he is a solid friend to Finley. He even holds back with basketball because he knows how much it means to Finley. What I think I loved that most about Russ was when he took Finley out of Bellmont and showed him that there is more to the world. That scene is just so striking and well written and just poignant. It’s perfect. I mean, I just, I think Matthew Quick does this really excellent job of setting a scene and making you feel all the things, even when the scene has nothing to do with romance.
I think that I would be remiss if I forget to mention Finley’s girlfriend Erin. Like Finley, Erin is really into basketball. Only she is really good at it. In fact, the two both love basketball so much that they break up during the season so that they can focus on their respective sports. Like Finley, Erin reads as someone with a calming presence. She also has a pretty hard lot in life, not as bad as Finley though. Her mother is quiet and depressed. Her dad is in the picture, but I don’t know how to describe him. Her brother is in the Irish Mob. One of the more important turning points revolves around Erin. I will say, get ready again, for emotions and feelings. Really though, her character is great and fairly well developed, even though she is a side character. I have a feeling you guys will love her too.
Boy21 by Matthew Quick cements the author as one of my favorite for both young adult and adult fiction. Quick’s writing is versatile, succinct, and emotional. If strong characterization and dog ear the page writing is your MO, then you need to buy a copy of Boy21 and then all of Matthew Quick’s other books because THEY ARE WORTH YOUR CASH MONEY. I guarantee it.
Disclosure: Review Copy Obtained At BEA 2012
Other reviews of Boy21 by Matthew Quick:
YA Love – “Readers will connect with Finley, Erin, and Russ”
Novel Thoughts – “I screamed ‘YES’ like some kind of hyped up adrenaline junkie”
Imaginary Reads – “Boy 21 has made me an even bigger fan”