Slam by Nick Hornby
Published: 2007 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Reading Level: Young Adult
Sam is a troubled 15-16 year-old skateboarder who lives in London. He has a poster of Tony Hawk in his room that he turns to for advice. As Sam puts it, “I talk to Tony Hawk and Tony Hawk talks back.” Sam has a few prophetic dreams that launch him into the future throughout the novel. When he is back to his normal time, he concludes he was sent into the future by some mysterious power of his Tony Hawk poster.
Things seem to be going well for Sam until 'slam!' Sam begins to date the beautiful Alicia and believes he's in love with her. He concentrates on their relationship at the expense of all his other interests, like skateboarding. They have sex several times, once without protection. After a while, Sam gets bored with the intensity of his relationship with Alicia and decides to break-up. But, later on, Alicia calls him and asks to meet with him. Yep, she’s pregnant. They have some decisions to make--have the baby or not, stay together as a couple or not. Since there is foreshadowing throughout, the ending to the teen pregnancy issue is predictable--although the actual ending of the story is a surprise because it is another prophetic dream.
This is the first Nick Hornby book I’ve read although I’ve seen two of his movies, About a Boy and High Fidelity and thoroughly liked them both. So, I was really looking forward to reading Slam. Unfortunately, for me, most of this story falls flat. Don’t get me wrong. There are some entertaining parts. It has some humorous bits, especially at the beginning. And I did enjoy reading the dialogue when Sam and Alicia meet. Oh yes, and the upbeat ending is a plus. But, the author fails to maintain my interest, I think, because the main storyline is too predictable. The ‘time travel’ or “future prediction dream” idea is interesting but without sufficient explanation. And the story movement, from present to future to past, is sometimes confusing.
Sam narrates the story as if his fast paced, non-stop thoughts are talking to me. And if someone did talk to me like that, I would either say “Stop, slow down, you’re driving me crazy!” or maybe listen for 10-15 minutes and then say, “Sorry, gotta go!” For example, the narration goes, “It was sunny, and I’d spent most of the day down at Grind City , which as you may or may not know is a skate park a short bus ride from my house. I mean, you probably wouldn’t know that it’s a short bus ride from my house, because you don’t know where I live, but you might have heard of the skate park, if you’re cool, or if you know somebody who’s cool.”
If his thoughts were only like that a few times, it wouldn’t be bad, but he does that a lot…starts off in one direction and falls back to explain. I guess the author thought it would sound like an authentic 15 year old, but after awhile, I thought it was annoying.
Finally, if I say, along with the tedious narration, there is nothing endearing about Sam or Alicia, you would not be surprised to hear that I can’t recommend Slam (....well, maybe, you would like Slam if you're a 15-16 year old skater who loves Tony Hawk, and you want some insight into dating a beautiful girl that you have nothing in common with and hope to, or, actually, hope not to, get pregnant, and if you did get her pregnant, whether you were obligated to stay with her and the baby or not...YOU SEE HOW ANNOYING tedious narration can be!).
Overall Rating: 2/5 (mildly entertaining when not annoying)