Finley goes into his senior year in high school knowing three things: he loves his girlfriend Erin, he plans to have a stellar year as point guard of his basketball team, and then, somehow, he will get out of the rough Philadelphia neighborhood that has worn down his father and grandfather.
But when his basketball coach asks him to befriend a troubled boy whose parents have been murdered, Finley’s world is turned upside down. Russ, or Boy 21 as he wants to be called, is a basketball star who plays the same position as Finley. Also, Finley has never been friends with another boy; he’s not sure he will know how to help Russ.
As Finley discovers, senior year has even more surprises in store for him, and before it’s over he will revisit a troubling incident in his own childhood and question all the things he knows to be true.
Boy 21 by Matthew Quick is raw and gritty as it unflinchingly looks at life in inner-city Philadelphia, where competing mobs and drug dealers rule the streets and quiet boys need to be under someone’s protection to survive. Quick gets to the heart of Finley’s conflict: he is a part of the environment he grew up in, and while he longs to find a better life, he’s not sure how to make that happen. He’s been taught to respect authority, and he doesn’t question what his coach asks him to do. But is that truly in his best interest? Finley is a team player. The question is, can he stay one and still find a way to leave the street behind.
Great for both boys and girls, Boy 21 examines issues of family, resilience, survival, and tragedy. It will grip you right up until the unexpected conclusion.
The publisher provided me with a copy of this book to review.