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Slam Paperback – October 7, 2008
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“We want to hear whatever this kid has got to say—the whole scary, hilarious story.… Hornby just makes it look easy.” —The Washington Post
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Top Customer Reviews
I'm guessing there have been a number of good YA books about teen pregnancy -- and if that's the case, add this one to the list. The simple story is narrated by 18-year-old North London lad Sam, reflecting back over the past two years. While it's pretty bare bones -- the cast doesn't really extend beyond Sam, his girlfriend, their respective parents, and two skater acquaintances -- things are made livelier though the device of having Sam discuss his problems with a poster of legendary pro skater Tony Hawk (whose responses are passages Sam has memorized from Hawk's autobiography). There are also a few jumps into dream sequence/time-travel which break up the straightforward narrative, although they don't actually add up to that much.
The book's real strength comes from Hornby's ability to capture the inner life of a teenage boy while avoiding all the usual pitfalls. Sam is neither too articulate nor too dense, and he's basically a well-adjusted, pleasant teen who hasn't gotten into any trouble -- until now. His narrative is full Hornby's trademark observational wit, although without nearly as many pop culture trappings as usual. The book certainly carries a cautionary message about teen sex, but it's never hectoring or reductionist. There's a strong sense of hopefulness for Sam, despite the deep hole he's dug himself. It's not an amazing book, but certainly a cut above the average.
Well, this time it's a young, rather lost BOY who is forced to grow up too fast, in Hornby's first foray into young adult fiction, "Slam." It's a gently humorous, rather bewildered story, albeit one that occasionally reads like a sex ed cautionary tale.
Sam is an ordinary kid, from a line of people who always messed up their lives early on. He loves skateboarding, talks to his Tony Hawk poster, wants to be a graphic art designer, and his love life is just starting to bloom. So he's blindsided when his ex-girlfriend Alicia reveals that she's pregnant, and that she intends to keep the baby.
Suddenly Sam is facing Alicia's snobby parents, his shattered dreams, and the fear that he can't be a good dad. Somehow his Tony Hawk poster flashes him months into the future, giving him glimpses of how his life will suddenly twist. And when Alicia has the baby, Sam finds that he needs to grow up in a hurry -- for his son, his parents, and the changes that are happening way too early.
To be honest, my first reaction to "Slam" was a pained groan. Nick Hornby crafts really insightful, unique fiction, and a story about teen pregnancy just seemed so.... simple. After all, there are only a few ways a pregnancy can turn out, and all but one don't make for a very long story.
But Hornby spins the story in his usual laid-back, meditative style, full of contemplative moments and pop culture references. It feels like reading a gently humorous memoir, but one with a painful sting of regret.Read more ›
What Hornby has done, and quite cleverly, is written a book about teens being put in overwhelming situations and growing from them, emerging at the other end as the same person but somehow bigger. He uses pregnancy to drive the plot but it could have been something else--choosing a career, say--since there are so many things that can seem overly awing to a young man. If you ever wanted to achieve something in life but didn't know how to start, only to realize years later that you had accomplished your goal, this is a book you will enjoy.
That's really all I have to say, but I'll add this: Hornby's true genius is in his recall of his own experience and his ability to recognize the universality of that. He knows every millimeter of the psyche of a character--a young man, in this case--and can put himself there and travel through those realms without judgment, tracing the different steps the character takes as he expands his awareness and point of view. It's a rare gift, and I'm glad that Hornby continues to share it with us.
But I love Nick Hornby. I'd read all of his novels except for this one, and I decided that he deserved more of a chance. So, I picked the book back up, refreshed myself a little on what all had happened, and finished it up. And it was pretty good. Sam was a little annoying--but a realistic kid in a difficult situation. And the novel was neither preachy nor unrealistically hopeful. I considered it a solid novel that I'd probably never read again.
But then Hornby got even another chance. I teach high school and had the novel on a list of books that students could read for oral book reports. A couple of students chose it (thinking that it was a relatively short and easy option), and when they came to do their report, they had loved it. Loved it. These were not enthusiastic readers, but the novel had struck a chord. They had found it funny and thought that its character--with his uncertainty, his impulse to remain a child, his recognition of limitations, his vague hopes that he might build a good life--was good and realistic. And they really appreciated Hornby's honest and amusing take on a situation that they'd encountered often in their group of friends--teen pregnancy and parenthood. I had one of the best conversations of the year with these students.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Slam is another novel based around odd characters with a plot that rings true to life. Hornby excels at this, and it's a very entertaining read that delivers on its themes. Read morePublished 1 day ago by Lou Kotler
This a great book by mr hornby. I was unsure about the contents at first but in the end I really enjoyed this work of literaturePublished 2 months ago by Edward Scheel
My teenage son received this book for a gift, but got through only a few chapters before abandoning it, deeming it "not very interesting". Read morePublished 2 months ago by D. Jennings
I had to think about this book for a bit...this is not typically a book that I would read. When I read the synopsis of this story about teenage pregnancy, I was drawn to the fact... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Lacy
Much to the probable annoyance of nearby sun-lounger occupiers, I read this on holiday by the pool. Annoyance? Yes; the book had me laughing out loud with its wit. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Stuart Aken
Hornby's 'research' for this book and the voices of its characters can't have consisted of more than ten minutes on Wikipedia. Tom Wolfe he isn't. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Mr. K. A. Potapov
Written by: Nick Hornby
Narrated by: Nicholas Hoult
Length: 7 hrs and 17 mins
‘Slam’ was the 2007 contemporary young adult novel from... Read more
I read this book after High Fidelity, which so far is NH's best. This one is better than I expected and though it's apparently listed as YA, it doesn't read as one. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Joniz
Not Nick Hornby's best writings, but still very entertaining. I give it four thumbs out of five. :)Published 11 months ago by Jeffrey S. Skott