You can lose yourself in repetition-quiet your thoughts; I learned the value of this at a very young age.

Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in gray, broken Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish Mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, he takes care of his disabled grandfather, and at school he’s called “White Rabbit”, the only white kid on the varsity basketball team. He’s always dreamed of getting out somehow with his girlfriend, Erin. But until then, when he puts on his number 21, everything seems to make sense.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. A former teen basketball phenom from a pirvileged home, his life has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he now answers only to the name Boy21–his former jersey number–and has an unusual obsession with outer space.

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21″ may turn out to be the answer they both need.

Time for another confession here on Letters Inside Out. I love aliens. That’s why I decided to pick up Boy21, yep, it’s contemporary, but I was intrigued that any senior in high school, who was once pretty normal and is now claiming to be from space.

Boy21 is the sort of book that can make you cry one minute and have you laughing again shortly after. I’ve never read any of Matthew Quick’s previous titles, but from what I gather, he’s known for his flawed and damaged characters. Each boy, Finley, and Russ is beautifully flawed in their own way.

Finley doesn’t talk much and lives in a community that’s pretty dangerous. He has the protection of his girlfriend’s brother. Finley’s coach takes him to meet Russ and asks him to befriend him and try to get him back to playing basketball. Russ quickly introduces himself as Boy21 and asks to only be called that.

There are some scenes that left me wide-eyed and kind of going, “Whaaaattt?” Let’s face it, the situation, while horridly tragic, is kind of funny. Boy21 follows Finley and Russ as they each grow during their senior year.

At times I wanted to slap Finley for the choices he makes, but I guess most are the difference between girls and boys. My heart broke for Russ, his life has been shaken to the core, and it’s just so sad.

Fans of male-driven contemporaries are going to love Boy21. In my opinion, there aren’t nearly enough of these! If you are looking for a book without a huge romantic storyline, you might want to check out Boy21. There is a bit, but the book is more focused on the friendship between the boys.

I received my copy of Boy21 in exchange for my honest opinion from the publisher.