Saturday, March 2, 2013

Boy 21 by Matthew Quick

Boy 21
Finley is, in many ways, a kind of Harry Potter. He lives in rather miserable conditions (his father works nights taking money in a tollbooth, his grandfather needs help because he has no legs and is still mourning the loss of his wife with the help of the bottle) in a miserable little town and all he can do is dream of leaving it and finding a better life. The difference with Harry is he does have a family who loves him and a girl friend that shares his love of basketball. He and Erin even train together during the summer to prepare for the season. Shortly before their senior year, Coach approaches Finley with a big request. A new boy is coming to the school from Los Angeles where he was a basketball star. Russ, who calls himself Boy 21, lost both of his parents and has suffered a break with reality. He believes that his parents are in outer space and will come soon to pick him up. Finley can understand this, since he pretty much stopped speaking after his own mother died (under mysterious circumstances). The bad news is that Russ plays the same position as Finley and even has the same number: 21.

Russ seems to be happy enough following Finley and Erin around, watching them train and practice, and seems to be comfortable with Finley's silence, even welcoming it. Coach has made sure the two boys have the same schedule when school starts so that they are always together and Finley is hurt that Coach makes him help a boy that ultimately will probably take his place on the court. But Russ doesn't show his abilities and seems to be holding back to let Finley keep his place. But something happens that shakes Finley so that he can't perform and he gratefully and gracefully lets Russ strut his stuff.

This was an interesting story. Even though I frequently suspend belief in many stories, I had a small problem believing that a senior basketball player was caught reading a covered copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone telling everyone it was a book by Ralph Ellison called Invisible Man. That one little scene felt a little forced to me but I had to smile.

Will Finley get his ticket out of town to Hogwart's? 

My rating for this book:      

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