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Coming around Again.
Slam - Nick Hornby
Member Name: QueenElf
Slam - Nick Hornby
Advantages: Witty, wise and sometimes sad.
Disadvantages: Should be classified as Teenager.
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.
İLisa Fuller. April 2008.
Summary: A young boy comes of age.