It’s never been easy for Finley, particularly at home. But two things keep him going: his place on the basketball team and his girlfriend, Erin – the light in even the darkest of his days.

Then Russ arrives. He answers only to Boy21, claims to be from outer space, and also has a past he wants to escape. He’s one of the best high school basketball players in the country and threatens to steal Finley’s starting position.

Against all the odds, Russ and Finley become friends. Russ could change everything for Finley, both for better and for worse. But sometimes the person you least expect can give you the courage to face what’s gone before …and work out where you’re going next.

My opinion: I loved Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook and I also love a good YA book, so had high hopes for this book.

Finley is from an Irish American family living in a tough neighbourhood and is the only white boy on his basketball team. Although life isn’t perfect, particularly at home with his father and disabled alcoholic grandfather, his girlfriend Erin and basketball make his life pretty ok. When he is asked by Coach to make friends with new kid Russell, his life changes in more ways than he can imagine. Despite Russell being pretty weird with an obsession with space and his insistence that his name is Boy21, Finley likes him, and finds some room in his life for a new friend.

I really liked this book and read it more or less in one sitting. It was refreshing to read a YA book which wasn’t about romance, but instead it was about the friendship of two boys, something I don’t think I’ve read about before. I’m probably the least sporty person ever, so the basketball references put me off a bit at first, but once the story got going, I could see why it was such a key aspect of the book, and found that I didn’t really need to understand the terminology to read the book. In the style of the best YA books, Boy21 deals with a number of difficult issues including grief, gang culture, poverty and families. I thought it was really well done by the author though as I didn’t feel that anyone theme defined the book and were just part of life, rather than necessarily being a focal point.

I really liked the writing style and felt that the story was well paced and flowed really well. It was a short book, but to be honest I think it was the perfect length. I don’t like books that are long for the sake of being long and being able to fit everything you want to say in a shorter book is a quality I like in authors. I would like to read more about the characters to see what happens next, and how they each get on following graduation. I really felt that Finley, Russell and Erin were all really likeable, and probably more so as none of them were jock type characters and were all a bit weird in their own special way. I really like these sorts of characters as they are more realistic and I know that I am bit weird in my own way too!

A really good read, and another good American YA book to add to the growing list of books that I wish were around when I was a teenager (not that it stops me reading them now!). I’d definitely recommend this book and will have to get round to reading more of Matthew Quick’s books soon!

My rating: Four stars

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher, Headline, via Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review

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