Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Review: Slam by Nick Hornby

Slam by Nick Hornby - Things are finally going right for 15-year-old Sam; it looks likely he’ll go to college, his Mum has dumped her crap boyfriend, and he now has a gorgeous girlfriend, Alicia. Everything is great – until one tiny slip up changes everything Sam knows. Alicia falls pregnant, and this kid has to face adult responsibilities, but is he up to it?

This book is so good! A lot better than I thought it would be. It’s a story you would think is not worth reading; it seems teenagers get pregnant a lot, and there’s only three endings, so why bother reading? Because this book gets right into Sam’s head, and having the male perspective is such an eye opener.

Sam is a skater, and a huge Tony Hawk fan. His being a skater is where the title comes from; in skating, when you slam – as I understand it – it’s when you fall off your board badly, so the title is metaphorical for him slamming in life. He has read Tony Hawk’s autobiography Hawk - Occupation: Skateboader so many times, he’s pretty much memorised it. So when he needs to turn to somebody to talk to, he turns to his Tony Hawk poster, who talks back to him; meaning, Sam will say something, and his memory will come up with something related Hawk wrote in his book. And it helps. But Hawk does some funny things too. Like somehow managing to take Sam into the future. Without telling Sam.

The story of Slam is told by Sam at 18, and it’s very conversational, so when Sam first talks about being “whizzed” to the future, he says:

"Most of the story I’m telling you happened to me for sure, but there are a couple of little parts, weird parts, I’m not absolutely positive about. I’m
pretty sure I didn’t dream them up, but I couldn’t swear that on Tony Hawk’s
book, which is my bible. So we’re about to come up to one of these parts now,
and all I can do is tell it straight. You’ll have to make your own minds up."
P 86
The book is full of Hawk info, and these funny little future visits, which make the book different. I learnt a lot about skating through reading this book, but it’s not the main focus of the book, so it’s not like you’ll be bored if you’re not a skating fan.

What I loved about this book was how much I felt for Sam. To be honest, before I read this book, I would have thought if a girl was pregnant, and the dad wanted to scarper, he was... well, a loser, to put things nicely. But reading this book, I kept wanting to put it down so I didn’t have to read it; so I could escape what Sam couldn’t. I really understood where Sam was coming from, and it really makes you think that the guy’s life changes too when a girl gets pregnant, not just the girl’s. I felt it was so unfair when Sam didn’t get any say in the decision about whether Alicia had the baby or not, or most things. He was just expected to do things; you’re the Dad, you must do this, and have no choice, while Alicia makes all the decisions. This book makes you completely understand what the guys can go through, and it is so unfair – which is a complete shock to the system for me, as I’ve always felt guys who leave the girls to deal with it on their own are not very nice people at all. I won’t tell you whether they keep the baby or not, I don’t want to spoil it, but this was such a good book!

There weren’t really any sex scenes in this book, but that’s fine as it wouldn’t be believable for Sam to tell you exactly what happened. It just wouldn’t happen, Sam’s not like that. What is cute though is that he has problems talking about certain things. Like, he never uses the word “ejaculation”, you can feel his embarrassment. It’s annoying and a bit confusing, but endearing at the same time. Like when he tells us about the time he’s pretty sure was when Alicia fell pregnant.

"We’d been messing about without putting anything on, because she said she wanted to feel me properly, and. . . Oh, I can’t talk about this stuff. I’m blushing. But something happened. Half-happened. I mean, it definitely didn’t happen properly, because I was still able to pull out and put on a condom and pretend as though everything was normal. But I knew that it wasn’t quite normal, because when the thing that’s supposed to happen finally happened, it didn’t feel right because it had already half-happened before. And that’s the last time I’m ever going, you know, down there."
P 58
This book is just so awesome! It’s kind of sad and frustrating being an outsider and unable to give him a hug or some advice or something, and having to just watch everything he knows go out of his control, but the ending is pretty good. I liked how it ended, it felt like a good way to do it, and although not perfect, it was right. A great book, all in all. You really should give it a go.

Luisa’s Thoughts:

As a reader: This was a very entertaining and mostly light-hearted read.
As a parent: The book gives the male perspective on teenage pregnancy, so it's a valuable addition to any teen reading list. (Though I'd like to point out that male main characters and male points of view in this type of fiction are not as rare as people might think!)
As a writer: I admired the unusual structure of this book, and the humour.

Published: 2008
Publisher: Penguin
Buy on Amazon UK
Buy on The Book Depository – free shipping worldwide
Nick Hornby’s Website

Other Reviews of Slam:
A Few Minutes with Michael
Book Gazing


  1. I enjoyed "Slam" as well, and reviewed it on my blog, along with another book that fits in well with your SiTL month theme, "Inexcusable".



  2. Awesome, cheers for the links! :)

  3. Great review, Jo! You know, I'd actually forgotten that there was no explicit sex in this book. That's a great quote you chose - it really highlights the chatty honesty of Nick Hornby's writing style.

  4. Thank you! :) I thought it was a pretty good quote. I love the way this book was written! :)

  5. I enjoyed your review, I have read a few of his books, but not this one. Yes, he has got a really good writing style - and I liked the film, About A Boy, too.


  6. I've seen this book at shops a lot but never picked it up because of the title. I didn't even know what it was about. I'd like to read this book because of the male perspective. Thanks for the review!

  7. You're welcome! It's an awesome book! I agree, the title can be misleading, but it's a great title for who Sam is, so it works when you get him. I hope you pick it up, and then enjoy it!