Boy 21
Boy 21

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Annotation: Finley, an unnaturally quiet boy who is the only white player on his high school's varsity basketball team, is asked by his coach to mentor a troubled African American student who has transferred there from an elite private school in California.
Catalog Number: #70517
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition Date: 2013
Pages: 250 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-316-12796-5 Perma-Bound: 0-605-60856-3
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-316-12796-7 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-60856-6
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2010047995
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
Finley pretends his earliest memory is shooting hoops in the driveway, where it was easy to zone out and forget what happened to his family. Now a senior, Finley doesn't talk much. "My mind is a fist and it's always clenched tight, trying to keep the words in." Keeping the silence is important in his neighborhood, where the Irish mob and black gangs clash. Snitches and their families are ruthlessly punished. He and his girlfriend, Erin, play varsity b-ball and dream of getting away. When moneyed Russ moves to the neighborhood, Finley is worried about the newcomer's basketball superskills, but Russ has problems, too. After his parents' murder, he adopted the persona "Boy21," a benevolent, emotionless alien stranded on Earth. Finley's glum reluctance to help Boy21 grows into surprising grace and friendship, and when Russ begins to heal, Finley confronts his own tragic past. Finley's relationships are sweet, supportive, and authentic. The revelation of what happened in Finley's childhood is heartbreaking, but the hopeful ending pays off. An unusual and touching story.
Horn Book
When Russ moves to Irish-mob-ruled Bellmont after his parents' murder, the school's basketball coach turns to team leader Finley to help him acclimate but also to convince former-phenom Russ to play ball again; since the tragedy he goes only by "Boy21" and insists he's from outer space. Authentic dialogue and deft character development ensure our emotional investment in these richly complex boys.
Publishers Weekly
High school senior Finley has always hoped that his basketball skills will help him escape the dead-end streets of Bellmont, a racially divided town outside Philadelphia, where his future seems bleak. As the only white guy on his school-s basketball team, Finley is acutely aware of the uneasy relationship between Bellmont-s substantial Irish- and African-American populations. Then Finley-s coach introduces him to Russ, a black teenager who, ever since his parents were murdered, has retreated into a strange internal world, claiming to be an extraterrestrial known as Boy21. As Finley and Boy21-s friendship slowly strengthens, they help each other change and grow; both boys attempt to understand past tragedies in their lives, as well as a new one involving Finley-s girlfriend, Erin, which further disrupts Finley-s understanding of the world. As in Sorta Like a Rock Star, Quick comes perilously close to overstuffing his story with offbeat characters and brutal twists of fate. Yet his emotionally raw tale retains a delicate sense of hope and optimism, making it a real gut punch of a read. Ages 12-up. Agent: Douglas Stewart, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Mar.)

School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up&12; High school senior Finley lives with his widowed father and disabled grandfather and dreams of escaping the violence, Irish mob, and racial conflicts of Bellmont, near Philadelphia. His passions are basketball and his girlfriend, Erin. The only white player on his team, Finley trains intensively for his final season as point guard. When Coach Wilkins tells him that Russell Allen, a sensational but troubled basketball player, is enrolling in his school, Finley is puzzled by the coach's insistence that he befriend Russ. Despite their vastly different backgrounds, the two boys gradually connect. As Russ begins to emerge from the emotional trauma of his parents' murder, Coach Wilkins is determined to have him play, costing Finley his starting position and jersey. Then, Erin is the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Finley's world is upended, and this time Russ offers comfort. Mysteriously denied access to hospitalized Erin, Finley learns that she was a target of gang violence and has been safely "relocated." Throughout this page-turner, Finley's stoic, pensive, compassionate demeanor; Russ's intriguing obsession with outer space; the conflict between friends over basketball; and Erin and Finley's commitment to each other ring true. Coach Wilkins's manipulation of Finley and the team sports dilemma of merit vs. talent will spark discussion. Although Irish mob connections with Finley's family and Erin's brother are briefly mentioned, Erin's accident and the abrupt conclusion that sends her and Finley into hiding, under mob protection, are not well explained. Nonetheless, characters are memorable and well developed; dialogue is crisp and authentic; and issues of responsibility, fairness, and loyalty will engage readers.&12; Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts,
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
In a town partially controlled by the Irish mob, a quiet friendship develops between two basketball players. Finley doesn't say much, and his basketball teammates fondly call him White Rabbit, both for his quiet demeanor and for being the only white player on his high school team. He is surprised but willing when his coach introduces him to Russ Washington and asks Finley to look after him. Russ, a nationally recognized athlete, is experiencing post-traumatic stress after the murder of his parents. While there are hints that something in Finley's own past makes this assignment particularly relevant, Finley quietly but firmly refuses to discuss his own history with other characters or with readers. Instead, they see the friendship among the two boys and Finley's girlfriend, Erin, gently unfold and the mysteries surrounding Russ deepen. Does Russ want to play basketball or not? Does he really believe he is an alien called Boy21? The answers here are satisfying but never simple, and the setting, a working-class town where asking too many questions can have deadly consequences, is a bleak, haunting foil to the boys' comfortable silence. Family relationships are well-drawn, and foreshadowing is effective without being predictable. A story that, like Finley, expresses a lot in relatively few words. (Fiction. 12 & up)
Word Count: 52,712
Reading Level: 4.9
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.9 / points: 8.0 / quiz: 151132 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.4 / points:14.0 / quiz:Q59531
Lexile: 830L

You can lose yourself in repetition--quiet your thoughts; I learned the value of this at a very young age.

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


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

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, a unique friendship may turn out to be the answer they both need.


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