Life in Bellmont (Philadelphia, PA) is hard. It is a rough area, ruled by the Irish mob, and known for its gang violence. Finely McManus is no stranger to it. He lost his mother, his grandfather's legs were amputated, and Finley himself was taken from his family as a child. Basketball has been the escape from those memories. Now heading of high school, Finley is focused on two things: his best friend and girlfriend Erin Quinn, and the start of a new basketball season.
Enter new student Russ Allen, an African American boy who calls himself "Boy21," perpetuating a narrative that he came from space. Finley's coach introduces the boys and asks Finley, the only white player on the team, to befriend him - and get him to return to playing basketball. Russ had been a basketball phenom at his old school on the West Coast, but when his parents were killed in a double homicide, he left the game. Russ' life was the polar opposite of Finley's: boarding schools, fancy vacations, etc. Over time, they learn that they have a lot in common, and through a series of hardships, the two become the closest of friends.
BTSYA / Teen Reader (15):
Overall, this is a decent novel. The writing felt childish to me at times which was a little off-putting considering that there are words like “horny” being used along with a constant theme of Finley “making out” with Erin.
It seems to me the target audience is less-experienced, teen to young adult readers.
A realistic, gritty story that shows we are more alike than different. Basketball fans - including reluctant readers - might well be surprised by how much they like this.
Violence and sexual references.
This is a story about friendship and overcoming big challenges and overwhelming odds.
In addition to the contrasts in the boys' backgrounds, there are broader issues of racism, prejudice, and bullying that can be drawn from the story.
The ups and downs of Finley's and Russ' relationships flow pretty naturally - given their different backgrounds, what made them best of friends? Does the story feel like it could be set in a specific period in time? or many? Ask your reader to give you examples.
14 and Up
13 and Up
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 15
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|Publisher||Aladdin, Imprint Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing © 2017 (Reprint Edition)|
|Publisher||Quill Tree Books, Imprint HarperCollins Children's Books © 2016|