Boy21 is a novel about basketball and so much more, encompassing male friendship, poverty, the Irish mob, grief, and love. I highly recommend this fast read by Matthew Quick, who became one of my favorite teen authors with his 2010 book Sorta Like a Rock Star.
Quick's latest novel, published in 2012, opens in ugly, tough Bellmont, Pennsylvania, where quiet, obedient Finley lives with his wheelchair-bound grandfather and widowed father. Finley -- whose childhood is a mystery until late in the book -- is flourishing as the only white kid on the high school basketball team. When the coach asks him to mentor a hot new -- and very mysterious -- player from California, Finley does, but suddenly luck and life seem to turn against him and toward the new guy. Nonetheless, Finley continues to support his friend, "Boy21," and their friendship grows, until Finley's girlfriend Erin is injured and Finley can't stand it anymore.
This book offers strong characters, action, dialogue, and -- hard to believe with all the bad luck going around -- a semi-happy, if old-fashioned ending. Particularly appealing to me were the threads of responsibility, loyalty and friendship among two extraordinary young men.