Little, Brown & Company (March 2012)

Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in broken-down Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, his dad works nights and Finley is left alone to take care of his disabled grandfather. He’s always dreamed of somehow getting out, but until he can, putting on that number 21 jersey makes everything seem okay.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. The life of this teen basketball phenom has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he won’t pick up a basketball, and yet answers only to the name Boy21—taken from his former jersey number.

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, Boy21 may turn out to be the answer they both need. Matthew Quick, the acclaimed author of Sorta Like a Rock Star, brings readers a moving novel about hope, recovery, and redemption.


“… beautiful … a first-rate work of art.” —⁠The New York Times Book Review

“Quick is a master of capturing the rawness of adolescence and the bleakness that comes from being trapped in the wrong world, whether it’s Finley’s bad neighborhood or, in the case of Boy21, Earth.” —⁠The Boston Globe

“Quick is brilliant at writing in the voice of troubled teenagers, especially those who are different…This is an excellent addition to his many commendable novels.” —⁠The Guardian (UK)

“… satisfying but never simple … A story that, like [its narrator] Finley, expresses a lot in relatively few words.” —⁠Kirkus *STARRED REVIEW*

“… an astonishing, exhilarating look at how broken lives are managed, and sometimes remade, even under the bleakest, most violent circumstances.” —⁠Barnes & Noble Review

“Every aspect of this multilayered novel harmonizes: secondary characters such as Finley’s girlfriend Erin and his handicapped grandfather are artfully likable; non-gratuitous threads of organized crime and violence add grittiness and are woven through the plot with finesse; excellently set-up twists display Quick’s mastery of pacing; authentic dialogue and deft character development ensure both our emotional investment in these richly complex boys and also our empathizing with their main commonality—feeling like ‘you’re not the person on the outside that you are on the inside.’” —⁠Horn Book

Boy21 and All the Right Stuff [by Walter Dean Myers] offer the fresh voices of boys grappling with growing up in less than stellar settings. In both novels basketball is a device, not a destination. And both books are standouts.” —⁠Chicago Sun-Times

“… [Quick’s] emotionally raw tale retains a delicate sense of hope and optimism, making it a real gut punch of a read.” —⁠Publishers Weekly

“… heartbreaking, but the hopeful ending pays off. An unusual and touching story.” —⁠Booklist

Boy21 is a powerful, meaningful story. It touches on all the great themes that affect a young person’s life: competition, friendship, love. And it does so masterfully.” —⁠Francisco X. Stork, author of Marcelo in the Real World and Last Summer of the Death Warriors

“In Boy21, Matthew Quick has written a completely satisfying and engaging tale about loss, love, family and friendship that I absolutely adored. Smart, fast-paced, heartfelt and, at times, heartbreaking, this book is phenomenal!” —⁠A.S. King, Printz Honoree author of Please Ignore Vera Dietz and Everybody Sees the Ants

“A poignant page-turner full of intelligence, humor, and insight. Boy21 delves into the unforgiving world of a tough racially-charged high school and emerges with a touching story of transcendence and triumph. Read this book.” —⁠Paul Langan, author of the Bluford Series

“Matthew Quick is an author who writes with incredible compassion and heart. If you care about young people, you will want to put copies of both his YA novels in their hands.” —⁠Jennifer Buehler, Ph.D.,’s Text Messages

“Matthew Quick seems to understand these kids inside and out and brings the anxieties and subtle insecurities of adolescent boys to the fore with a quick, witty style that will surely engage all teens … There is so much written about girls’ relationships with their friends at this age, but rarely has an author managed to make boys’ concerns so perfectly manifested in two characters who you will think about long after you put the book down. Sports is a great way into the story, but the real reason to stay and enjoy is the multi-layered relationships that Quick uses to show the determination and humor of the human condition.” —⁠Teenreads

“Quick has created a formidable character in Finley … compelling …” —⁠VOYA

“… will catch readers by surprise with its combination of unique characters, emotion, and friendship … strikes a perfect balance between inner dialogue and emotion” —⁠City Book Review, 5 stars!

Boy21 … delves into the psyches of fascinating, flawed, and memorable characters as they try to find their way through life … heart-wrenching and perfectly satisfying.” —⁠Carissa Schanely, Imagine that… Camden County Library System Summer 2012

“Amidst poverty, loss: basketball, love, hope.” —⁠YA Lit in 6

“While basketball anchors the storyline, the interaction between Finley and Russ and their tragedies show that friendship can be more of a constant than sports. Both boys and girls will be attracted to the book.” —⁠Library Media Connection

Boy21 is an excellent book … for girls and boys to read so if you think you’re interested in the book then you picked a good choice. Have fun reading Boy21.” —⁠National Post, Kids Review Books for Kids, Jocelyn Arrazola, Age 12


New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

L.A. TIMES BOOK PRIZE – Young Adult Literature finalist

— YALSA 2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults

— Best Teen books of 2012 Kirkus Reviews

— **Starred review** Kirkus Reviews

— Deutscher Jugendliteratur Preis 2016 (German Youth Literature Prize) nominee

— 2013 Texas Tayshas Reading List pick

— Translated into Korean, Polish, German, Complex Chinese (Taiwan), Simplified Chinese (Mainland China), Vietnamese, Portuguese (Brazil), Dutch, Hungarian, Spanish, Turkish, and published in the UK by Headline