Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Boy 21

Quick, Matthew (Author)
Little, Brown 2013. 256 pages
First published: 2012
ISBN: 9780316127967 (paperback)
9780316193146 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

characterization, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This story of basketball, rivalry and friendship is set against a backdrop of poverty, crime and simmering racial tensions in small-town Pennsylvania. “‘You play sports?’ Sir says.… His mom named him Sir because she wanted people to show him respect. He’s half Puerto Rican, which is a bit of a rarity around here.”

Basketball is a life saver for Finley, who remains cowed and quiet, even all these years after his mother died. But when Coach asks him to convince the new kid Russ, transferred due to his own family tragedy, to join the team, Finley must balance loyalty with self-interest. “‘You okay with that Finley?’ Coach says. I nod. A good ball player always listens to his coach, especially when his coach is as smart as mine.”

From an affluent background, and a genius on the court, Russ would seem to have it all, except, of course, that he claims he’s an extraterrestrial named Boy 21, who believes his parents will return from outer space to pick him up. “So it looks like you and I will be spending some more time together, Earthling known as Finley.”

Skillful language contrasts Boy 21’s celestial knowledge with gritty realities on Earth: Finley’s Dad drudges as a night-shift toll collector; Pop (his grandfather) is diapered and legless in a wheelchair; his girlfriend Erin is woefully injured on account of her brother’s connections with the Irish mob. Then there’s Russ’s withdrawal from the pain of his parents’ murder. As both hurting teens find solace in their friendship, Finley learns he has priorities bigger—and more rewarding—than basketball.

  •  

    Loss and the healing process figure prominently; identity and agency also play a key role in shaping the protagonist. As a whole group, do a preliminary character sketch of Boy 21 at the beginning of the novel.

  •  

    Identity and self-esteem are important aspects of Boy 21’s experience. With a partner, discuss the significance of his name and his struggle for self-acceptance.

  •  

    Consider how the first-person narrative would change if it were told in the voice of another character. Select a scene and a character, and rewrite the scene in the alternate voice.

  •  

    With a partner, identify the components on the front cover. Discuss what you think this book will be about, taking into consideration its title as well.

  •  

    Trust is an recurring issue in the novel. Take note of the moments in the story where trust plays an essential role in the relationships between Finley and Erin, and Russ and Coach Wilkins.

  •  

    Draw (3-5) full-page spreads of how Finley and Russ’s friendship evolves in the novel. Each spread should indicate a different point in their relationship.

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Personal and Career Planning
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Personal Development
  • Physical Education and Health