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"Boy21" Characters Analysis

By Matthew Quick

young adult | 250 pages | Published in NaN

Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in gray, broken Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish Mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, he takes care of his disabled grandfather, and at school he’s called “White Rabbit”, the only white kid on the varsity basketball team. He’s always dreamed of getting out somehow with his girlfriend, Erin. But until then, when he puts on his number 21, everything seems to make sense.Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. A former teen basketball phenom from a privileged home, his life has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he now answers only to the name Boy21—his former jersey number—and has an unusual obsession with outer space.As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

List of Characters

Character NameRole
Finley "Finn" RussellProtagonist
ErinLove Interest

Role Identification

In "Boy21" by Matthew Quick, the characters play various roles that contribute to the development of the story. The protagonist, Finley "Finn" Russell, is a central character who undergoes significant growth throughout the narrative. Russ, Erin, Coach, and Cal also play crucial roles in shaping Finn's journey.

Character Descriptions

  • Finley "Finn" Russell: Finn is a high school basketball player who struggles with his own personal demons. He is fiercely loyal to his friend Russ and finds solace in playing basketball. Finn is known for his determination and resilience in the face of adversity.
  • Russ: Finn's best friend, Russ, is a key supporting character. He is a basketball player who has a strong bond with Finn. Russ is often seen as the voice of reason and provides emotional support to Finn through their friendship.
  • Erin: Erin is a new student who moves to Finn's town and becomes his love interest. She brings a sense of hope and optimism into Finn's life. Erin is caring and compassionate, and her presence helps Finn see beyond his own struggles.
  • Coach: Coach is Finn's mentor and basketball coach. He believes in Finn's potential and pushes him to excel on and off the court. Coach serves as a guiding figure for Finn and helps him navigate through difficult situations.
  • Cal: Cal is the antagonist of the story. He is a troubled individual who challenges Finn both physically and emotionally. Cal's actions force Finn to confront his fears and make difficult choices.

Character Traits

  • Finley "Finn" Russell: Determined, resilient, loyal, introspective, conflicted.
  • Russ: Supportive, reliable, trustworthy, empathetic, level-headed.
  • Erin: Optimistic, caring, compassionate, understanding, patient.
  • Coach: Inspirational, motivating, wise, supportive, influential.
  • Cal: Troubled, aggressive, manipulative, intimidating, unpredictable.

Character Background

  • Finley "Finn" Russell: Finn comes from a tough background, having lost both his parents at a young age. He lives with his grandparents, who provide him with love and support. Finn's passion for basketball becomes an outlet for his emotions and frustrations.
  • Russ: Russ is Finn's childhood friend, and they have grown up together in the same neighborhood. He comes from a stable family background and serves as a pillar of strength for Finn during challenging times.
  • Erin: Erin is a new student who moves to Finn's town, escaping her own difficult circumstances. She brings a fresh perspective to Finn's life and helps him see a brighter future.
  • Coach: Coach is a respected figure in the community and has a deep understanding of the challenges Finn faces. He has a successful basketball coaching career and uses his experience to guide Finn both on and off the court.
  • Cal: Cal is a troubled individual with a troubled past. He constantly seeks to assert his dominance and control over others, often resorting to violence and manipulation.

Character Arcs

  • Finley "Finn" Russell: Finn starts as a conflicted and introspective young man, struggling to find his place in the world. Throughout the story, he undergoes a transformative journey of self-discovery and learns to confront his fears and insecurities. Finn's character arc is marked by his growth from a reserved and guarded individual to someone who embraces vulnerability and finds strength in his relationships.
  • Russ: Russ serves as a steady presence in Finn's life. While his character arc may not be as prominent as Finn's, Russ shows unwavering support and becomes the source of stability for Finn. Russ's arc revolves around his loyalty and friendship, which remains constant throughout the story.
  • Erin: Erin's arrival in Finn's life brings a new perspective and hope. Her character arc focuses on her ability to uplift and inspire Finn, helping him break free from his emotional barriers and find happiness.
  • Coach: Coach's character arc centers around his mentorship of Finn. He recognizes Finn's potential and believes in his ability to overcome his challenges. Coach's guidance and support push Finn to surpass his own expectations and find his true potential.
  • Cal: Cal's character arc showcases the destructive power of unresolved trauma and the consequences of unchecked aggression. While Cal initially serves as a source of conflict for Finn, his arc highlights the importance of addressing personal demons and the potential for redemption.


  • Finn and Russ: Finn and Russ share a deep bond of friendship. They have each other's backs and provide emotional support during difficult times.
  • Finn and Erin: Finn and Erin's relationship develops slowly throughout the story. Erin's arrival brings hope and happiness into Finn's life, and they find solace in each other's company.
  • Finn and Coach: Coach serves as a mentor figure for Finn. He pushes him to excel in basketball and helps him navigate through personal challenges.
  • Finn and Cal: Finn's relationship with Cal is tumultuous and marked by conflict. Cal's presence forces Finn to confront his fears and test his own resilience.

In "Boy21" by Matthew Quick, the characters' role identification, descriptions, traits, backgrounds, arcs, and relationships collectively contribute to the narrative's depth and provide a comprehensive understanding of their significance in shaping the story's development.