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Review: "Boy 21," by Matthew Quick

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In my attempt to keep up with YA writing I read this book at the recommendation of the OHS librarian. This book failed on most levels. The author also wrote Silver Linings Playbook which I have not read, but certainly translated into a wonderful film. This "streetlife" story of a white basketball player in inner city Philadelphia on an all black team and his experiences, simply did not move me on any level. Boy 21, the name for a character who comes to Finley's school and takes over his starting role on the basketball team, is simply unbelievable. Yes, he's suffered from trauma with the murder of his parents, but this character is just not real. And if any student displayed the level of confusion, lunacy and fantasy that this person displays on a daily basis, he would certainly be hospitalized. I don't get a feel for Boy 21's esteemed and fantastic basketball skills, I don't get the Irish mafia as being so horrible that they not only killed Finley's mother, but they also cut off his grandfather's legs. I can't believe that the end result is two 17 or 18 year olds heading off to New Hampshire to live together. Coach always asking Finley for favors. Erin and Finley have to break up every basketball season so they can concentrate on basketball? It just doesn't add up. The through line on this story is just too weak and it doesn't make it any more palatable by having the main characters fall in love with star-gazing. One nice theme doesn't save anything. There are just simply too many unbelievable loopholes throughout the entire story. Finally, I don't care about these characters. Despite their tragic lives, the dismal existence that they lead, the lack of opportunities, all of it doesn't make me care. And finally,the writing is flat and pedestrian, commonplace to the max. Perhaps this is a signifier of YA novels that they have to be "easy" so that teens will be attracted to reading. If that's the case, and I don't believe it has to be so, than better young people read graphic novels and comic books, there's more redeemable in many of those pages, at least the drawing and inking tends to be of a higher caliber. This book, a disappointment all around.