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Slam Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 16, 2007

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, October 16, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* For Hornby, author of About a Boy (1998) and High Fidelity (1995), the move from adult to young-adult fiction represents more of a natural progression than a change in course. So it should come as no surprise that he has written an accomplished teen novel featuring a character whose voice hits its groove at the downbeat and sustains it through the final chord. Sam is a disarmingly ordinary 15-year-old kid who loves to skate (that's skateboarding, to you and me). But then he is blindsided: his girlfriend gets pregnant, and he lands in the middle of his mum's nightmare (she had Sam when she was 16). This may sound like an old-fashioned realistic YA problem novel, but it's a whole lot more. Sam, you see, has a sort-of-imaginary friend: the world's greatest skater, Tony Hawk, whose poster Sam talks to when he has problems. And the poster talks back, maybe, or maybe Sam is just reciting quotes from Tony's autobiography. And is it really Tony who is "whizzing" Sam into the future for glimpses of what is to come? With or without Tony's help, Sam gives us the facts about his very eventful couple of years, but as he reminds us, "there comes a point where the facts don't matter anymore . . . because you don't know what anything felt like." Which is where Hornby comes in. We know exactly how Sam feels—even when he feels differently from the beginning of a sentence to the end—and it feels just right: a vertiginous mix of anger, confusion, insight, humor, and love. Ott, Bill

Review

...a sweet and funny story about mistakes and choices. -- VOYA

...full of pleasures that readers familiar with Hornby should recognize, such as the kooky subsidiary characters and clever off-center dialogue... -- Kirkus

...full of wit, humor and pathos. -- San Francisco Chronicle

A sure bet for Hornby fans of any age -- Publishers Weekly, starred review

A sure bet for Hornby fans of any age. -- Publishers Weekly

Hornby's witty, gentle genius shines through. -- USA Today

Hornby...shows he understands the psyche of an adolescent boy just as well as he does those of men. -- KLIATT

The characters are given the opportunity to grow with charm and wit while facing the challenges of young adulthood. -- School Library Journal

Vintage Hornby: a witty trek inside the emotional life of the modern male. -- People

Well-balanced wit and weight, prominent pop-culture placement...and an exploration of that tricky line that separates youths from adults. -- The Washington Times
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 6 and up
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (October 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399250484
  • ASIN: B0036DE5FE
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #572,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nick Hornby is the author of the novels A Long Way Down, How to Be Good (a New York Times bestseller), High Fidelity, and About a Boy, and of the memoir Fever Pitch. He is also the author of Songbook, a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and editor of the short-story collection Speaking with the Angel. He is also the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters E. M. Forster Award, and the Orange Word International Writers London Award 2003.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I've been a huge fan of Hornby's since the early days, including his non-fiction, and this step into YA lit feels totally natural. After all, so many of his protagonists (including himself) are young men struggling to come to terms with adulthood and the responsibilities of "growing up." Here, the dilemma is much the same, however it's much more direct, and instead of a young man grappling adulthood, it's a teenage boy grappling with the implications of a monumental adult responsibility.

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.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Nick Hornby has always specialized in the tales of young, rather lost men in a modern world. "About A Boy," "High Fidelity," et cetera.

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.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Hipps on November 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm sure there are going to be a lot of nervous parents out there giving this book to their teenagers in hopes of scaring them off of sex for another few years. Hornby's latest uses teen pregnancy at the center of the plot, but I hope it isn't seen exclusively in that light.

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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Oddsfish VINE VOICE on May 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
I love Nick Hornby, but I'll admit that I struggled a little with Slam. It started well, but then it launches into this long dream sort of sequence in which Sam is seeing what will happen in the future. Hornby lost me a little bit at that point--the unexplained supernatural element in a plot is one of my biggest pet peeves--and I did something that I pretty well never do. I put the book aside. I just left it unfinished, sort of uninterested in where it was going.

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.
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