Slam by Nick Hornby

Bibliographic Information: Hornby, N. (2007). Slam. New York, NY: Putnam Juvenile.  ISBN: 0399250484.  304 pages.

Plot Summary: Sam Jones loves to skate, that’s “skate” using a skateboard, in case you are not familiar with the term.  His idol is Tony Hawk, shortened by Sam to T. H.  Sam has a poster of T. H. on the wall of his bedroom and often speaks to T. H., asking for life advice.  Here is how Sam tells it, “I talk to Tony Hawk, and Tony Hawk talks back,” (Hornby, 2007, p. 4).  Sam’s home life is stable, his parents are divorced, and he is being raised by a single mother, who had him when she was 16.  Sam is now 15 years old and has the youngest mother of all of his peers.  Sam’s greatest passion is skating, which he does whenever he can fit in the time for it.  And then, he meets Alicia Burns.  Alicia is beautiful and funny and she and Sam fall head over heels in love.  They want to spend every possible moment together, mostly in Alicia’s bedroom.  Their relationship becomes sexual and intense and then something happens, and it changes, and Sam no longer wants to see Alicia every possible moment of every day. In fact, he does not think he wants to date her at all anymore.  He is confused about his feelings, and while he is trying to sort them out, he gets the news: Alicia is pregnant.  This sends Sam right to his advisor, T. H., who seems to send Sam – SLAM! – on a journey into the future complete with visions of himself, Alicia, and their baby.  What is happening?  Can he get back to the present?  Does he want to?

Critical Evaluation: Slam is written in the first person from the perspective of Sam.  Sam’s honest voice, through Hornby, comes across as a confused, insecure, and, mostly likable, 15 year old boy.  Sam’s language and thoughts feel authentic for someone who is not quite yet an adult but is dealing with very adult circumstances.  The path of the novel is interesting, as it takes a twist from realistic fiction to science fiction with the element of time travel woven into the story.  At first, I found the time travel surprising and wondered if Sam was going to wake up and we would realize it had all been a dream, but then it seemed the time travel was really happening and it was up to Sam to figure out why he was being given this glimpse into his future.  Sam assumed Tony Hawk was sending him into the future to teach him something, though that thing was not always obvious.  This book contains a lot of humor. Sam’s dry wit and sarcasm will make readers smile and, possibly, chuckle.  And Sam’s eye rolling-annoyance, at certain things adults say, feels just like what a teen would do.  The text is accessible, and, as it is written from a boy’s perspective might be a great choice for male reluctant readers.

Reader’s Annotation: When 15-year-old Sam finds out he is going to be a father his life trajectory takes him into unchartered territory.

Information about the Author: British Writer, Nick Hornby has written other popular novels including Fever Pitch, About a Boy, High Fidelity, A Long way Down and How to Be Good.   Fever Pitch, About a Boy, and High Fidelity, were all made into films (Hornby, n.d.).  Though many of his novels would be interesting to young adults, Slam is Hornby’s only novel geared to young adults.

Hornby is very interested in music, and music often plays a significant role in his novels. For example , Sam and Alicia’s baby is named Rufus, because Rufus Wainwright’s music was playing in the delivery room.  Hornby collaborates and performs with the rock band Marah (Nick Hornby, n.d.)

Genre: Issues, Science Fiction

Category: Issues: Pregnancy and Teen Parents; Science Fiction: Time Travel

Curriculum Ties: English and Health

Booktalking Ideas:

  • What if you spoke to a poster of your idol and he spoke back?

Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 19

Challenge Issues: Premarital Sex, Teen Sex, Sexuality, Teen Pregnancy.  In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies.  Also, there are several positive reviews of the book.

Why is this book included? I was familiar with Hornby from the book and movie About a Boy, and I wanted to see what he could do in his young adult novel.

References:

Nick Hornby. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Hornby

Hornby, N. (n.d.) Nick Hornby: Biography.  Retrieved from http://www.penguin.co.uk/static/cs/uk/0/minisites/nickhornby/aboutnick/index.html