As a school librarian, I have the bi-monthly pleasure of helping to select books for our book club. This month’s club was full of amazing discoveries: Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses; Teri Terry’s dystopian mystery Slated; and Rick Yancy’s twisted take on Frankenstein, Monstrumologist. There is always one selection in the batch that I think of as my baby, the one that I want all the students to read (and that –yeah, I’ll admit it – typically makes me cry). This month, my book club baby is Matthew Quick’s incredible Boy21.
With a backdrop of basketball and urban blight, Boy21 is a YA novel with amazing texture and unbelievable heart. Finley, a troubled narrator who barely vocalizes, nevertheless has a lot to say about human decency and loyalty. Russ, the deeply traumatized Boy21 of the title, a basketball wunderkind who introduces himself to Finley by saying “I have been programmed to treat all humans with kindness,” is bizarre and completely believable. It’s a tough trick, but Quick pulls it all off to create a realistic novel that crackles like a profound human connection.