Book – Slam
Author – Nick Hornby
Year – 2007
Genre – Teenage Fiction
Pages – 292
In reading Slam I have now managed to read all of Nick Hornby’s novels. He truly is a terrific writer, and I shall make a point now of suggesting to anyone who hasn’t read anything of his to grab hold of one of them now. This is the first Hornby book to have been written for a slightly younger audience – although only just, it is a teenage book and is full of sex and swearing just by its very nature – and I was not quite sure how I was going to find it.
Written from the point of view of a sixteen year old skater (that’s skateboarding, not ice skating, as he is keen to point out) called Sam, it tells the story of how he finds himself with Alicia, and how the pair of them find themselves expecting a child. Throw in a talking poster of Tony Hawk and some possible time travel, and you would expect that things are a little weird, but actually it is an entirely natural book, and it’s realism is both its strongest and weakest point.
The plus side is that you completely understand your narrator from the word go, primarily because he talks in exactly the way that a sixteen year old skater would speak. Or possibly more to the point, as a twenty six year old man, I don’t know how a sixteen year old skater would speak, so Hornby has managed to write a book in the way that a twenty six year old man imagines that a sixteen year old skater would speak. Which when you think about it, is even more impressive. I would suggest that it has always been a bit of a hallmark of Hornby’s writing that his main characters are believable, and it draws you in straight away.
The only bad side to this, is that when things are going wrong for Sam, the whole book becomes almost unbearably cringeworthy. At one point I felt so embarrassed for him that I couldn’t read more than a couple of lines without shutting the book up again, and had to resort to blasting through a couple of chapters to get on track. It is of course, a massive compliment to his writing that he has managed to make a reader feel that way, but I would be lying if I said that they were pages that I enjoyed.
However, despite me thinking that it would at the time, it does not detract from what is an excellent book. The story is great, the writing great, and the message great. In sixteen years, Hornby has managed to put out only six novels, with the most recent one being last year, so I am not massively hopeful for when the next will be out, but I shall be awaiting it eagerly.