BOY21 Summary and Study Guide

Matthew Quick

BOY21

  • 56-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 40 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a professional writer with an MFA in Creative Writing
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BOY21 Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 56-page guide for “BOY21” by Matthew Quick includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 40 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 26 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Identity and Body.

Plot Summary

Boy21 tells the story of Finley McManus, the only white student on his high school’s varsity basketball team. Finley narrates this piece of young adult fiction that deals with the violence and, tangentially, the racism prevalent within American society.

The novel begins in Finley’s memory: he is learning how to play basketball as an escape from the trauma within his Bellmont community. He meets a girl, Erin Quinn, who becomes his best friend, and they practice basketball together and eventually date, though they break up for basketball season. The novel fast-forwards to their senior year of high school, when Finley’s basketball coach introduces Finley to a new student, Russ, who also goes by the name of Boy21, and who believes he is from outer space. Russ’s parents were recently murdered, and he is an incredibly intelligent basketball prodigy, so Coach enlists Finley’s help in making sure Russ adjusts to his new life in Bellmont and, above all else, to make sure Russ returns to playing basketball. Coach also explains that Russ’s past must remain a secret, as there are many college recruiters who would interrupt the boy’s reintegration into society.

Russ and Finley become friends, and Finley is amazed at how different their lives have been. Russ’s expensive boarding schools and classy vacations seem incredibly charmed in contrast to the trash-filled streets of Bellmont, which Finley has rarely left. Russ teaches Finley a lot about outer space, and Finley does not mind his bizarre behavior, although he does worry that Russ will take his spot on the basketball team when the season comes. However, Russ has not touched a basketball since the death of his parents. Finley also doubts that Russ is mentally stable enough to handle the stress of the game, considering Russ’s many outbursts,including a public freak-out during a class trip to watch a movie about outer space.

Basketball season arrives, and Russ purposely does terribly at the first few practices, much to the anger of Coach, who maintains that the game’s structure will heal Russ’s mind. At the first game of the season, Finley chokes, unable and unwilling to shoot the ball. Coach subs in Russ, who takes the game by storm, and everyone is shocked at his talent. Finley gets angry and thinks about quitting the team, but no one seems to care besides Erin, who convinces Finley to stick it out. After the school learns Russ’s true identity and talent, Finley becomes invisible, completely overshadowed by Russ’s prowess.

Then Erin is hit by a car, and Finley’s world collapses. He decides that she is more important than basketball and quits the team, even though Erin refuses to see him. Eventually, Erin is moved to a different location and disappears altogether, and Finley becomes increasingly depressed. Russ tries to cheer him up, taking him to a stargazing location far away from Bellmont. During this trip, Finley tells Russ that he was kidnapped as a child and that his mother was murdered, a secret he has never told anyone before. Russ, in turn, tells the story of his parents’ murder, solidifying the bond between the two boys. On the day of graduation, Finley receives a letter from Erin explaining that she had to disappear in order to protect him. Finley’s father buys him a one-way ticket to go live a new life with Erin in New Hampshire, and Finley leaves Bellmont forever.

The novel’s narrative arc is complicated by many factors, most notably the importance of secrecy and silence within Finley’s community. Bellmont constantly lives in fear of the violence that plagues the community due to the prevalence of the Irish mob and other drug dealers and gangsters. Finley himself is often silent, relying on nonverbal communication to understand people and situations. Though he is the protagonist ofthe novel, he acts as a spectatortomany of the book’s events.

The book also subtly presents the racism endemic to American society. Bellmont is an incredibly segregated town, even though it is mostly black. Finley’s and Erin’s families are the only major white characters in the novel, and they usually stick out within the community. However, when Russ, who is black, joins their group, he sticks out, always trailing behind them as their silent shadow. This tension makes the friendship between Russ and Finley all the more important, as it bucks convention in the highly segregated Bellmont community.

Chronologically told from Finley’s perspective, the novel is dividedinto three sections: “Pre-season,” “The Season,” and “Erin.” Every event that occurs prior to basketball season fits into “Pre-season,” and then “The Season” encompasses the period from the first practice until the end of the first game, as though Finley’s entire life waits for basketball to start. However, the book throws a curveball with the last section, “Erin,” in which Finley loses all focus on basketball, realizing that interpersonal relationships are more important than the game.

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