Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Books I've Read: Boy 21


This was one of those frustrating books that had a fantastic premise and great characters, yet somehow managed to be a bit meh.  I think it could have been longer and that might have made a bit of a difference, but the main issue I had with it was the way Finley's past was kept obscured for so long when it really didn't need to be.  In fact, I think leaving his trauma a mystery until the very end actually weakened the story.

Finley is the only white kid on his school's basketball team, and gets called "white rabbit".  He's not the best player, but he practices hard and loses himself in the game.  And with his life, he needs to lose himself.  

His mother is dead and his father has never quite got over it.  Finley has to look after his disabled grandfather while his father works long hours to keep the roof over their heads.  The town is run by a shady Irish mob and both father and grandfather warn Finley constantly not to draw attention to himself, not to engage with anyone associated with that mob.

Which is kind of hard since his girlfriend's brother has worked his way up to being a key heavy for the mob - one of those guys everyone fears because he talks the talk and walks the walk and what he says becomes law.

When Russ moves to town, Finley's basketball coach asks him to look after the new kid and hold tight to his secrets.  Russ is a star player with scouts from all over after him, but after losing his parents and bouncing around the foster system for a while, Russ isn't into playing basketball right now.  Her prefers talking about and studying outer space, seemingly convinced he's from a distant planet and going by the name Boy 21.

As the two navigate the ups and downs of their final year of high school, they discover they may have more in common than they may once have thought, and each just might be exactly what the other needs.

There was a lot to like about this book, but it just didn't quite work for me.  I wanted to see more of the town through Finley's eyes.  It was always described as gray and broken, but never in any detail.  The mob was mentioned by multiple characters, yet they were seldom seen and it was unclear exactly how much influence they really had on the town outside of Finely and his family's imaginations.

And as I previously mentioned, I don't think obscuring Finley's past for much of the book added anything other than a layer of annoyance for me.  Oh, and I don't believe the ending was very plausible either. In fact, the last third or so of the book just didn't work for me.  Which is a shame because up until that point, I'd been enjoying it.

So while I don't strongly recommend this one, I wouldn't warn you off it.  It just isn't as good as I wanted it to be...

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb:

Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in gray, broken Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish Mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, he takes care of his disabled grandfather, and at school he’s called “White Rabbit”, the only white kid on the varsity basketball team. He’s always dreamed of getting out somehow with his girlfriend, Erin. But until then, when he puts on his number 21, everything seems to make sense.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. A former teen basketball phenom from a privileged home, his life has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he now answers only to the name Boy21—his former jersey number—and has an unusual obsession with outer space.

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need

1 comment:

  1. How is Russ not the main character? He seems to have the more interesting story.