If you're looking for a basketball book with less play-by-plays and more true-to-life problems, Boy21 (Goodreads | Amazon) is an excellent choice. Maybe I'm the only one actively looking for basketball books (hopefully not!) but Boy21 could be appreciated by sports-fans and non-fans alike. Sports are not just about watching a ball go through a hoop (or into a net or into the endzone). This is something that non-athletes and non-sports fans seem to forget. Sports are about so much more, and Boy21 handles that in a really in-depth and original way
For Finley, basketball has always been a way to escape his life. He's a good point guard, but not good enough to play college basketball. But basketball is something that makes sense and when he's tuned into a game he can forget about his life, forget about the gangs, poverty, his dead mother, his disabled grandfather and just focus on the game. Even though he's not got a future in basketball, he works harder in the offseason and trains harder than any of his teammates.
But then Boy21 comes to town. He's a highly recruited basketball player but in the aftermath of his parent's murder he's refusing to play basketball, sheds his name and pretends to be an alien from outer space waiting for his parents to return and take him home again. Finley's basketball coach, who was friend's with Boy21's parents, asks him to help bring the boy back to reality. Even though it might cost him his starting position, Finley decides to help because he always does what his coach asks of him.
The meat of this book is the friendship between two broken boys, Finley who doesn't talk to anyone except his girlfriend Erin and Boy21 who finds Finley a calming presence. Within each other they find someone they can trust, confide in and they understand each other. They've both suffered tragedy in the past and they both need basketball, even if Boy21 doesn't want to admit it.
This book is perfectly written, and as my second Matthew Quick book I knew to expect that. It's written in a simple down-to-earth manner. They're both high school students, but smarter and maybe wiser than their years based on their life experience. The writing captures that. If I had any complaints about this book, it's that it's too short and maybe that's not a complaint at all. The story was told, short, concisely but with a ton of emotional impact, but I wasn't ready for the book to end.