Finley's entire life is basketball and he trains tirelessly even though he's nowhere near the best player on the team. As his dad says, effort can outwork talent. Basketball consumes his every waking thought and he wouldn't have it any other way. Without basketball and the team he'd have too much time to remember all of the things he's desperate to forget. Russ is new to town, a basketball phenom who's love of the game died with his parents. Now he's calling himself Boy21, saying he's an alien life form and obsessed with outer space. Can Finley do as his coach asks and somehow help Russ, even if it means giving up his hard earned starting spot?"Sometimes a player's greatest challenge is coming to grips with his role on the team." --Scottie Pippen "No matter how good one player is defensively, he's only as good as his help defense." (source)And that is exactly what Boy21 is about---except Matthew Quick isn't talking about basketball. He's talking about life. Sure, basketball brings Finley and Russ together and at different times and in different ways it acts as a savior for both boys. But as all consuming and amazing and beautiful as it can be, both Finley and Russ are forced to experience how tragedy can make anything insignificant--even your heretofore reason for living. Sometimes it doesn't matter how much you love something. Real life has a way of changing your priorities and when it does, it's the team you have around you that counts.All of Matthew Quick's trademarks are here: rough neighborhood, sad histories, finding (non-romantic) love in a hopeless place, unconventional friendships and support systems, a tragic event, and behind it all a hope so earnest it's almost hard to endure. There's a shift in direction between the first and second half and I think the book suffers from some confusion with the focus of the second half. Some decisions and conclusions seem very abrupt. Still, there's much to love about Boy 21, especially the relationships between Finley, his dad and Pops and Finley and Russ. Like Sorta Like a Rock Star, the ending is a little too convenient to seem wholly realistic but by the time you get there you are so won over by the protagonists that you are willing to forgive just about anything to believe good things can happen for them.You might not know this about me but I'm a huge basketball fan. Obviously I loved reading such a well done basketball book. It's fitting though that I finished this book the same night I watched my favorite team get eliminated in the NBA playoffs. But instead of being bummed, thanks to Matthew Quick, maybe tonight I'll go out on my porch, look at the stars and think about things bigger than basketball.Rating: 3.5 stars with an inclination to round up.This review originally appeared on Young Adult Anonymous.