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Slam Paperback – October 7, 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 95 customer reviews

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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“With Sam, Hornby has given us another of his perfectly imperfect male characters… Sparkling.” —Chicago Sun-Times
 
“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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (October 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594483450
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594483455
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,019,673 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE 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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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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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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