Slam by Nick Hornby

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Slam by Nick Hornby

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath
Reviewed by Keith Dudhnath
Summary: A 16 year old skater panics when his first serious girlfriend becomes pregnant.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: October 2007
Publisher: Puffin Books
ISBN: 978-0141382975

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Sam, the protagonist of Nick Hornby's first teenage novel Slam, is a regular 16 year old. He enjoys hanging out with his mates, skating and eating junk food. He trundles along at school. He has an idol (Tony Hawk the skater) whom he turns to more often than his family. Then his first serious girlfriend, Alicia, falls pregnant, and his life changes.

I loathed Slam's first chapter. Flat out loathed it. Each new page brought more of what's wrong with books for teenagers: a 50 year old man trying to be down with the kids so he wheels out a name of someone they'll think is cool, then thinks "oh umm... teenagers always say 'whatever', and have friends with stupid nicknames. I'd better put some of that in here". Given how highly acclaimed About a Boy was for being so in touch with its young protagonist, it was a major surprise and disappointment.

Soon after Sam first meets his girlfriend Alicia, the novel clicks. Suddenly the characters are real people, worth caring about. The clunky start is forgiven and forgotten almost immediately as each page rushes past. Sam's love, embarrassment, fumblings, thoughts, fears, naivety and maturity, all ring beautifully true. Just as Sam wishes he could turn back the clock so his girlfriend didn't become pregnant, so the reader wishes they could turn back the pages to where Sam and Alicia were just a couple of nice kids enjoying their first semi-serious relationship.

Sam's world doesn't come crashing down around him: he's just a nice guy in a tough situation. This isn't Melvin Burgess (admittedly excellently) telling it how it is for some, this is just how it is for most in this situation.

Slam has its preachy moments, where retrospective advice about the morning after pill, and statistics on teenage pregnancy are shoe-horned in. Every single young person reading it will just sigh a little and think "Well, they have to put that paragraph in". Mostly, however, Hornby strikes the correct tone throughout: telling the story of a couple of people's lives, and simply trusting the reader.

Despite a very brief shaky start, Slam is a fantastic book, brimming with characters that you can, should and do care about. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.

You may also like My Side of the Story by Will Davis and Teacher's Dead by Benjamin Zephaniah.

Buy Slam by Nick Hornby at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Slam by Nick Hornby at

Buy Slam by Nick Hornby at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Slam by Nick Hornby at


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Magda said:

Probably bit on a tangent, but still:

I really think somebody should start churning out moralising books in which a character (or his girlfriend) has an abortion and then lives happily ever after - as millions of women (and teenagers) do, rather than either becoming traumatised or deciding to have the baby and finding a surprising/difficult/hard but still worth it fulfillment in that.

Especially as the much lower take up of abortion in so called lower socioeconomic classes is one of the reasons for the British high teenage pregnancy rate.

Sue said:

It's the 'and then lives happily ever after' that might cause the problem, Magda. I don't think it sells that many books, unfortunately.

Keith replied:

Reading it, I did find myself thinking the characters would be better off if they had an abortion. It is touched upon in the book, and they did make the point in passing that much of the moralising about abortion is from American fundamentalists.