Boy21’s narrator, Finley, uses basketball as a way to cope with the violent hopelessness of his hometown. His mysterious past makes him uncommunicative, and he relies solely on his girlfriend, his night-shift working father, and his legless grandfather – and, of course, basketball. He is willing to follow his coach’s orders scrupulously, which leads him to the absurd situation of meeting and befriending Boy21 – a new kid in town whose past is just as scarred as Finley’s.
I was thoroughly surprised by this novel. I expected it to be about the significance of basketball; however, in actuality it communicated its relative unimportance. Finley’s experiences throughout this story lead him to grow up and to acknowledge what, and who, truly matter to him. The novel deftly explores the idea of using different devices as shields, from basketball to silence to outer space.
This is a beautiful book – I couldn’t put it down, and read it in one sitting. Matthew Quick impressively weaves the story to incorporate many intriguing themes, from helplessness and desperation to mental instability. It is a wonderful story, and creatively told.