Reviews for Boy21

Booklist Reviews 2012 March #1
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. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Fall
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.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #3
When Russ moves to decrepit, race-torn, Irish-mob-ruled Bellmont after his parents' brutal murder, the school's basketball coach (a family friend) 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. Despite inherent awkwardness, the two boys are immediately comfortable together: reserved, compassionate narrator Finley doesn't push Boy21 to be someone he's not ready to be, and a tender friendship develops. That basketball is only a cursory detail in their relationship becomes clearer when tragedy also strikes Finley's life and basketball "just doesn't seem so important anymore." Russ's alien alter ego gracefully, almost unnoticeably, dissolves as he sees his friend in similar anguish; his coping as Boy21 suddenly seems like a logical reaction to such disorienting pain. Fascination with the cosmos is a recurring theme, both as acknowledgment of our tininess within the enormous universe and as a soothing force of stability. Every aspect of this multilayered novel harmonizes: secondary characters such as Finley's girlfriend Erin and his handicapped grandfather are artfully likable; non-gratuitous threads of organized crime and violence add grittiness and are woven through the plot with finesse; excellently set-up twists display Quick's mastery of pacing; authentic dialogue and deft character development ensure both our emotional investment in these richly complex boys and also our empathizing with their main commonality -- feeling like "you're not the person on the outside that you are on the inside." katrina hedeen Copyright 2012 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 February #1
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) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 January #3

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.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 March

Gr 8 Up--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 #21 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.--Gerry Larson, formerly at Durham School of the Arts,

[Page 171]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

VOYA Reviews 2011 December
Philadelphia is where Finley calls home, even though it is laden with Irish mob crime, some of which is family history, though most of it is skillfully hidden just below the surface, silently mixing with Finley's performance on the basketball court, his obligations to his father and handicapped grandfather, and a dubious accident involving his girlfriend during basketball season. Quick has created a formidable character in Finley, someone readers can peel back the layers of to discover a benevolent and loyal high school senior whose moniker, White Rabbit, singles him out as the only white kid on the basketball team. Finley's coach has asked him to befriend a new recruit, Russ, who is painstakingly recovering from the death of his parents, where Russ's unusual coping mechanism has unsettled other players though Finley, while not ready to confess his mother's death, questions their friendship when both play the same position. Yet, the altruistic tendencies Finley has for his family also play out as Russ takes center stage on the court pushing Finley to the sidelines. Necessary of course is a distraction that becomes a life-altering choice to leave the team when his girlfriend, Erin, mysteriously disappears after a career-ending injury that artfully brings Finley and his family full circle to their Irish mob beginnings The quality of the story is reliant on Finley's appeal which is quietly sentimental and compelling from his relentless basketball regimen to his mental game. Boys will identify with his sportsmanship and team and family commitments, but will need some encouragement to pick up the book with a quirky outer-space theme, while girls will sympathize with each character's struggle to move beyond the past and create their future.--Alicia Abdul 4Q 3P J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.