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Slam is a very in depth look at what its like to be a 15 year old boy who fathers a child. The novel follows Sam on his journey through growing up. If you can call it that! Finding out his girlfriends pregnant and learning how to cope with it through to finding out that he cant cope living with her and his own mum falling pregnant so that his sister is 4 months younger than his son. Its Hornby's attempt at young fiction and it works, to an extent.
I love Hornby, however I think Slam is a bit off the mark. I am 22 so it's not that long ago I was a young reader myself. My boyfriend also has a ten year old son who I try to encourage to read as much as possible. He likes to skate and likes reading so when I realised Slams protagonist loves to skate I thought it would be a good read for him. However I think Hornby didn't get the balance of his readership down right. If I was to guess at what age group this book was for Id say mainly 13-15 year olds and it'd be for boys. Having known quite a few boys of around this age I'd say not many of them read for fun. Taking that out of the equation I'd say the ones that do like to read for fun would find this book a tad too young in places. The content is of the right age but I don't think the character passes well for the age he is, especially when you take into account the fact that he's meant to be 18 and looking back on his earlier life.
I enjoyed the book and wanted to finish it quickly to know what happens in the end and stuff like that but the practicalities of the book just weren't right. I don't believe that a 15 year old kid would believe his poster talked to him for a start and the "whizzes" to the future were a bit too strange, they seemed more like bad dreams to me, which is what they may have been but Sam believed that his hero Tony Hawk whizzed him to the future and back. That's to me seems to be the kind of thing that a younger boy would think. But as I've mentioned I don't think the content is right for that age.
The book was quite predictable which I got over relatively quickly and was written well in style for a young adult book. I just think that maybe some bits could have done with changing a little so that the audience was more set. I honestly believed that a ten year old would be able to read the book and am a little disappointed that I won't be able to pass Hornby's writing onto my known younger generation yet but let's hope that Hornby's next young adult/ children's fiction hits the nail on the head.
I am aware I have focussed on the negative here and that's bad of me. I did enjoy the book and wanted to see it out to the end. It raised good points about teenage pregnancy, about what it means to be a young parent and about differences in status. I felt sad and happy and angry and allsorts when I read it so it wasn't as if the emotional attachment wasn't there but there was just something a little wrong about mixing the fantasy world of time travel and posters talking to you with
This is a review of the book "Slam" by Nick Hornby, published in 2007. I'm a great fan of the books and films from Nick Hornby's work so looked forward to reading this after swapping it on the readitswapit site.
A bit about the storyline
The book follows sixteen year old Sam and his girlfriend Alicia. Sam's a keen skateboarder and uses famous Skater Tony Hawk as a muse, talking to his poster every night and memorising the Hawk's biography, to guide him in life's choices.
Sam and Alicia slip up one night resulting in her being pregnant and their baby 'Roof' (short for Rufus) being born. Sam's not sure how he feels about this but he gets on with it and does his duty by Alicia, despite falling in and out of love with Alicia and discovering the joys of dirty nappies!
Suspend your disbelief
The book is quite straightforward until Sam somehow manages to time travel for a day at a time into his future life. He gets a glimpse of what life might be like and he's not too sure that he's happy about that life.
Good or bad?
For the most part I liked this book. It's simply written and would be a good book to put in front of a young teen boy to put him off having sex too soon! The book is honest and frank and a really good insight into the teenage boy's mind.
Sam is a likeable character and you want him to have a good outcome. He loves his mum and doesn't want to let her down and for this he comes across as really sweet. He has ongoing issues with his dad and his parents are separated. History repeats itself as a common theme through the book; Sam's mum was only 17 when she had him so they make young grandparents of Roof.
In his desperate state, Sam runs away to Hastings, believing he can get a job on the seafront. He is destroyed when he finds it quiet and deserted, even offering his services to the giant skittle attraction as a skittle-putter-upper! He ends up helping an old man for half an hour when he is jolted back to reality and realises life as a personal carer to a grumpy old man is no better than being a father to Roof and part time partner to Alicia.
Absolutely, it took me no time at all to fly through this book but I enjoyed reading it. I would have enjoyed reading it at a younger age too so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to others.
Nick Hornby is a contemporary British novelist with a string of bestsellers to his name (including the autobiographical Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, About a Boy and A Long Way Down). I'm a big fan of his work. He has a great knack of creating characters who are credible and who I, as the reader, care about. His books are always a joy to read and he cleverly takes normal, everyday situations and mixes in a page-turningly perfect concoction of drama, crisis and humour.
Slam tells the story of Sam, a teenager living in London with his divorced mother (who had Sam when she was 16 years old). Sam narrates his own story in the first person. His greatest passion is for skateboarding (or 'skating' as it is apparantly known by cool young folk) and he idolises the world's most famous skater, Tony Hawk (no, not the fella that played the Moldovans at tennis and carted a fridge around Ireland - that was Tony Hawks). Sam spends a great deal of his time talking to his Tony Hawk poster and believes that Tony talks back to him - he can imagine the conversations in his head. Slam, incidentally, is a term used to describe a skateboarder 'losing it' and slamming into the concrete.
Sam seems reasonably well balanced and Hornby has given him a number of funny lines - some intentionally (on Sam's part) humourous, others not. Sam's attempts to explain/translate certain "youth speak" to a presumed much older reader is a good example of the other.
The storyline revolves on the life issues that Sam is forced to deal with and how he handles them. At times you can almost feel his pain, his angst, his joy and his confusion. Sam's equilibrium is seriously jolted by the events that befall him. It's hard not to like Sam and hope that he can cope with whatever hardships Hornby has created for him.
That's basically it - Sam baring his soul to the reader, warts and all. He has to grow-up very quickly and make some adult decisions fot the very first time.
I would never have contemplated reading this book if it hadn't been written by Nick Hornby. Superficially, the book is little more than a teenager's diary.
In reality it is a very cleverly constructed, warm and engaging story.
293 page paperback first published by Penguin in 2007
Amazon prices: £4.33 new or from 1p (+£2.75 p&p) used
Slam by Nick Hornby:A peep into teenager's mind
I heard a lot about this book and finally got it from one of my friends.
This was the first time I was reading any of Nick's pieces and guess what !!! I want to amend that mistake now...I loved this book..
The novel talks about Sam; a teenager who has a great penchant for skating and portrayed as a happy go luck guy.The sudden twist in the tale comes when he meets Alicia.
You can swiftly get a glimpse of unprecendent accident.Yes you guessed it right.Alicia becomes pregnant.
The entire story hovers around how Sam handles the tough situation right from the moment he is aware of the blatant truth to mystical mini-journeys into his own future .
The very fact that Sam has a very young mum and an absent father makes this change look different from Sam's point of view.
The story has a great flow and the unique narration of main character should appeal to readers.I was overwhelmed with the valiant attempt made in this novel to delve deep down to a teenager's mind and actions to tackle teenage fatherhood.
Albeit,I am not a young adult but I still could correlate to the young adult's mind and more so after all the front page news about teenage father in UK.........
This book is an enjoyable and thought provoking read...
I will advise this..
The blurb of this novel lies: it suggests that the main character's passion for skating will be important in the plot. It isn't, except insofar as it gives Sam a realistic, slightly atypical hobby for a teenage boy. This is important because many people might pick up this novel expecting it to focus strongly on this topic, then be disappointed when it doesn't, so that's the first warning: it's not about skating of any kind.
What it is about, you will quickly work out before it actually happens. In fact, if I tell you that Sam's mother had him when she was 16, and feels her life has been compromised by this, and Sam has just got a new girlfriend...you can probably already guess where the main focus of the novel lies. This isn't a problem, because the whole appeal of the novel is really found in how Sam responds to his situation and how his feelings develop and change as he seeks to cope. In this respect, the novel is typical Hornby, even though it is written for a younger audience.
Sam's voice is believably teenage, even though it is occasionally irritating to read such a profusion of terms like (!) 'erm...er...like'. His occasional selfishness is believable and makes him a realistic character. Equally, the attitude of his girlfriend's parents towards him comes across as realistic and similarly ambivalent; there are no characters to love or hate here: they are all too well drawn.
The real flaw in this novel (I felt) was that after taking such care to create plausible characters and a serious plot. Hornby decided to introduce an element of time travel. Somehow, on some mornings, in a freak occurrence which may or may not be connected to Sam's 'discussions' with a poster of Tony Hawk (top skateboarder), Sam wakes up in The Future. This only lasts a day each time and allows him to feel totally panicked and useless as he tries to do simple things that are expected of him, like change a baby's nappy (how?) and attend college (where?) I could not see that these episodes added anything to the novel, except an unnecessarily mystic element in an otherwise realistic tale.
Given the subject matter, the novel would appear to be in serious danger of preaching to its readers, but although Sam makes it abundantly clear that his life is not as it should be, (including rating his life 3/10,) he copes well enough with everything to make it clear that his situation can be handled...but is not advisable. In this respect, if Hornby did set out to send a warning message to teens, he succeeds admirably.
Overall, the biggest question might be who the audience is really meant to be for this novel. The emphasis on feelings makes me wonder how many older teen boys would read 'Slam', and the emphasis on sex makes it unsuitable for young teens. Still, as an adult reader I certainly found this an entertaining and thoughtful read.
Aside: this book is recommended for dyslexic teens by Waterstone's, in association with Dyslexia Action, because it meets several key criteria.
I always vowed to read more Nick Hornby after reading 'High Fidelity' which in my opinion is one of the best books ever written - so when my better hald produced the book 'Slam' for me to get my teeth into on a recent holiday in Egypt, I was delighted.
Nick Hornby's writing style is first person, and he incorporates a lot of humour into his writing, and because of the fact he normally writes from a male perspective I can relate very well and find myself chuckling along to his words. This was the key in 'High Fidelity' and my better half has informed me that he did one from the perspective of a woman, which I am yet to read and may take me quite a while to get round to it, but 'Slam' was back to basics, about a 15 year old lad.
From here on in people I am going to give you the plot line, but as strange as this sounds, the plot isn't really a spoiler, for instance if you were to talk about Independence Day the movie, you would obviously know that it was a film about aliens attacking earth. 'Slam' is a book about a 15 year old boy whose mother had him at 15 and he is about to make the same mistakes. The reason why I have no problem in telling you the plot line is the book is much more about the relationships of the characters and how they cope with the news rather than the plot itself.
So the big question, is it any good? Not really if I am honest, it almost feels like the Hornby has decided to write a book cracked it out in a week and gone from there.
Sam is the main character, he is 'skating mad' and his idol is Tony Hawk, if you are not aware of who Tony Hawk is he is probably the most successful skateboarder of all time, with his autobiography being an American bestseller and with his own line of computers games across all consoles he has certainly broken the mold from the stereotypical skater. The obsession is a bit much though, Sam states that he has read TH's autobiography about 50 times and has a poster hanging in his room. Nothing too strange about that, but he talks to TH and TH talks back giving him life advice. When I say talks back what I mean is Sam will talk to him and Sam will conjure up a response based on what is written TH's book. That isn't the worst part, I will get to that later.
He has two friends which he goes skating with and the impression given is that he is a quiet lad and prefers his own company rather than that of others, it is a shame that these friends and especially 'Rabbit' are not used more as they provide perhaps the only comic relief in the book, does that sound harsh? Good, it was meant to.
His mother as I stated was very young when she had Sam, and she was married to a tradesman when he was growing up, however, they turned into two separate people as Sam got older and split up. His mother got her life 'back on track', apologies to any single mothers reading this, the last thing I want to do is cause offense. When Sam was a little older she went back to school and gained her qualifications and now works for the council, she is proud with what she has achieved but constantly worries about Sam and if she is being a good parent. His Dad went the other way, never saw the necessity of schooling and was perhaps even envious of his wife going back to gain her qualifications. This is where the split occurs.
If you are bored when reading this review, I do not apologize, I was bored reading the book.
Boy meets girl, and in this book the temptress is 'Alicia', apparently a stunning girl from a good background but no real desire for schooling, her dream is to finish school and become a model, boy and girl get together, boy and girl experiment without condom, girl gets pregnant. Book done.
Or at least you'd hope, it felt to me that Hornby finished this book, sent it off to the publishers and they said 'What are you playing at? This is only 200 pages, and it isn't even any good'. So Hornby did what any well respecting author would do, involve time traveling. Now this is where I really lost any interest in reading, don't get me wrong, I finished the damn book, but I felt everything had become just a little bit too far fetched. Sam travels in time courtesy of TH and sees what he will be like at two variations of time, he has no idea where he is and so struggles to get to terms with what is expected of him at any given moment.
I will finish it there before I start giving it too much of an unfair slating, my other half enjoyed it, and she is a much bigger reader than I, and some bits were vaguely amusing, but on the whole I would suggest that this book be given a wide berth if possible. Do not let this review put you off other books by the author, I still firmly believe that 'High Fidelity' is a right of passage for any male book reader. Hopefully I will get round to reviewing it at a later date.
Thank you for reading, and I hope that I haven't put you completely off, as I notice the other review of this book gave it 4 stars.
I had heard of Nick Hornby, but I couldn't remember for the life of me where and when. I was standing on Richmond station with this book which had just been thrust into my hands as I lugged my suitcase onboard. I normally always have a book to read on a journey, but this time I had left it behind for my daughter to read. My daughter's best friend had come to see me off and knowing I'm a bookworm she had bought it for me while we were waiting for my train. Just in case you think I'm waffling again, this is not my normal choice of book at all, so there had to be a reason I read it.
I did actually remember that the name went with a Hugh Grant film, "About a Boy", which was about average as far as the floppy-haired actor goes. In fact I remember thinking that the boy was far better than HG, but that's neither here nor there.
<< Plot >>
The back of the book didn't endear me to it at all. Briefly it tells of a boy called Sam, aged sixteen, whose life is going along quite nicely (thank you), with his skating, (whoops, it's actually skateboarding). His mum has finally dumped her horrible boyfriend and Sam has just met Alicia, who is going to figure in his life quite prominently in the next few years.(though he doesn't know this at the time). For a little accident happens and Sam is going to have face some very adult problems in a short space of time.
Well that told me more or less all that I wanted to know. Obviously the little accident is going to about Sam's girlfriend getting pregnant and how he faces up to it.
Okay, the usual critics call it "funny", sensitive, moving etc, but what do I want with a book that's obviously aimed at teenagers? I mean these critics are paid to sell books this way.
But I had nothing else to read so I opened the pages and started to read.
At 293 pages in quite bold type, it wasn't a long read, but it did keep me interested enough to almost finish it during my three-hour journey.
Now I know you are reading this and thinking what on earth does this have to do with the plot? Well, it was about making my own mind up where the story was going and did it tell the reader enough to get them to buy it?
In one word, "No." I wouldn't have bought it by the blurb on the back. But the plot is much better than the blurb.
Sam's a pretty decent kid for a teenager. He's a big fan of skating and he is already facing up to some truths about life. I.e. that unlike his hero, Tony Hawk, he's going to have to work hard to get anywhere in life. In fact he often discuses his problematic life with his hero's poster. (And the aide of said hero's book, that Sam's read many times.) Sam has a very young mum and an absent father, so when his girlfriend gets pregnant he is already aware of what damage this could do to his life.
The rest of the book is how he comes to terms with this, including some strange goings-on when he appears to be "Whizzed" into the future.
<< Characters >>
I haven't read anything by this author before, but he's 51, author of several fiction books and some non-fiction. He has a keen eye for human nature and delivers some very realistic people to the reader.
Written in the first-person, we filter other character's through Sam's eyes and I like the way that the voice alters as Sam goes from sixteen to eighteen without once sounding like an adult. He's going to learn a lot about life in a very short time, but given his own background he has a head start.
Both Sam's parents were sixteen when they conceived him, and this reflects in the attitudes both take to the situation. Sam's mum is concerned about his future, whereas his shiftless father isn't around much.
The girlfriend, Alicia, is probably like many a young girl caught out by thinking that sex equates to love, but coming from a middle-class family she thinks things will be easy...now I wonder where I heard that before?
<< My Thoughts. >>
This was never going to be on my list of "must-reads", but I did find it a strangely intelligent book that should appeal to teenagers from about fourteen to nineteen. There really isn't enough depth to make it appeal to an adult audience, but I could be wrong.
I admired what Hornby was attempting to do with it and the way he got into the mind of a young boy, without it being corny. For that it does deserve the accolade given by the critics.
The character of Sam could relate to so many young boys/teenagers, but what made his own situation so poignant was that of having a mother who was only sixteen when she "ruined her life", as some family would say. That brought to mind the government's attempt to bring back "family values." While that's not a bad thing, it's far too sweeping a statement and doesn't take into account human nature. Let's say that Sam's little accident was more about ignorance than anything else. I can't spoil the story by saying any more than that.
Its is a warm, witty book and I did find myself laughing out loud at some sentences. I'm sure that there are plenty of Sam's and Alicia's trying to do the right thing, but I'm afraid my own experience of teenagers nowadays is very cynical.
My copy is a Penguin paperback retailing at £7.99, but at the time of writing this, its available on Amazon at £3.86. It looks nothing like the picture on dooyoo. The actual site picture is of the audio version. Perhaps this could be changed?
Thanks, as always, for reading.
©Lisa Fuller. April 2008.
Whoever invented skateboarding is a genius. There's only one skater, and his name's Tony Hawk. It doesn't matter if you don't know who he is, just trust me. Not only is Hawk the world's best skater, he's also good to talk to. So I talk to Tony Hawk, and Tony Hawk talks back. Because just when it seemed like everything had come together for me, I had to go and screw it all up. It only took two seconds. But all of me knew. One risk. One mistake and my life would never be the same. Hawk had a few things to say. And a few things to show me. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see your own future?