Finley is focused. Basketball is his ticket out of Bellmont--the broken, oppressive, Irish mob-ruled town he lives in. The only white player on his high school varsity basketball team, he practices and practices, knowing he has to "outwork talent." Finley is challenged when his coach asks him to take a new student under his wing--a new student who has is dealing with personal tragedy, who is convinced he is from outer space and insists on being called Boy21, and who is apparently an all-star basketball player.
Boy21 is a poignant and heartbreaking story. Basketball is central to the storyline, as Finley and his girlfriend Erin practice constantly to prepare for basketball season since they know the sport is the only way they will get out of their town. The introduction of Russ, aka Boy21, changes everything for Finley. Russ' parents have been murdered, he is suffering some serious post traumatic stress, and his outer space obsession is pathetic and disturbing. His childlike needs and communication style are strange coming from a fully grown, man-like teenage boy. Subject matter is heavy, as bullying, racial tension, mob violence and retaliation, character death, drug dealing, and kidnapping are all part of the story. Language is strong (a-s, cr-p, c-ck, d-mn, bad-ss, sh-t) and some steamy making out takes place. A devastating hit and run accident leaves a main character seriously injured. Finley's past, which was clearly traumatic, remains unknown until the end of the story, when it is discovered that the reason his grandfather lost his legs and the reason his mother is dead are related to the Irish mob and one poor decision his grandfather made. The story ends on an upswing, with a ray of hope in an otherwise dismal life, and the character evolution of Russ (Boy21) is fascinating. This story is a rough one, and readers need to be prepared for some heavy and painful issues, but the writing is exceptional, and the characters and their relationships are beautifully developed. >Book Review Trailer on YouTube: