Not Old Enough for a Driver's License, Old Enough to be a Father

Nick Hornby. Slam. New York: Putnam Juvenille, 2007.

Book cover links to
"I'm telling you all of this as if it's a story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. And it is a story, I suppose, because everyone's life is a story, isn't it? But it's not the sort of story that has an end...It's going to be the middle of the road for a long time, as far as the eye can see, and I suppose there are lots of twists and turns to come."

Fifteen-year-old Sam’s closest friend is a poster of his idol, pro-skateboarder Tony Hawk.

“I talk to Tony Hawk, and Tony Hawk talks back.”

In Nick Hornby's novel, Slam, Sam finds answers to all of life’s questions through reading and relating back to Hawk’s autobiography. To him, the poster is like a real person that he can confide in and finds answers to his problems from quotes in the autobiography. Sam learns that he definitely needs that advice when he starts dating Alicia and his life becomes a rollercoaster of emotions.

“I can’t remember now—when everything seemed to have come together. And so obviously it was time to go and screw it all up.”

Sam lives in London with his mom, Annie, who had him at only sixteen. His life revolves around time spent skateboarding with his friends, Rabbit and Rubbish. Annie, looking to help her son find a girlfriend, takes him to a party for her friend who has a daughter, Alicia that is the same age. After an awkward start, they find they really like each other and plan to hangout.

The first time Sam and Alicia hangout, they go up to her bedroom to watch a movie. The topic of sex comes up when they're talking and Alicia tells Sam that her last boyfriend was pressuring her to have sex with him. The next night that they were supposed to go to the cinema, Sam and Alicia go upstairs to her room instead. Soon, Sam’s hormones get the better of him and Alicia decides she’s ready. They have sex after Alicia swipes a condom from her parent’s room. From then on, Sam and Alicia spend almost every night in her room alone for weeks.

"I'd been close to having sex a couple of times, but I chickened out. Having sex at fifteen is a big deal if you've got a thirty-two-year-old mum."

Sam starts to lose interest in Alicia and they start spending less and less time together. Eventually, they break up and Sam goes back to skating.
One day Alicia calls him asking to meet up. Sam fears the worst and his life comes crashing down around him when Alicia tells him she’s pregnant and plans to keep the baby against her parents wishes.

Hornby presents the male perspective of teen pregnancy and shows how Sam must man up to life’s lessons before he can even drive. Hornby’s novel is a coming of age story that begins with the immaturity of two teenagers, but evolves to show how when another person is involved life stops revolving around the Sam and Alicia.

Recommendations for Teachers
For an educator, teaching from Nick Hornby’s Slam could potentially cause some moral dilemmas with parents or administrators; the issue of teen pregnancy being the most prevalent. My recommendation would be to be sure you are teaching in a very open minded school district. In the novel, the main character deals with his girlfriend's pregnancy with a very raw and real thought process, of fear and uncertainty. The novel doesn’t need a lot of explanation in that aspect but should be talked about in an in class discussion or possibly the use of an online blog. Slam, however, could be used as the introduction to a research paper on teen pregnancy or peer pressure. Students could also discuss the parallels between teen parents and the possibility that their child will become a young parent.

If you were teaching in a very open minded school district you could turn the book into a sex education class, but that would again depend on the district you are in.

Another way to address teaching this novel would be to show the students the importance of having someone to talk to. The way that Sam speaks to his Tony Hawk poster is a great introduction to that. The students could discuss in small or larger groups who they talk to and what makes a good listener. Students could discuss the differences between Sam’s mother, friend, girlfriend and the poster and why he felt talking to the poster was more beneficial than any of the others.

Examples of Teen Pregnancy Lesson Plans
Example One
Example Two
Example Three

Another way to approach teaching Slam would be to use it as an idependent reading. Students could read the novel and then report in a Wiki-review.

A final option would be for the class to read not only Slam which focuses on a males perspective of teen pregnancy but also read a book that depicts a females view or experience. The novels could then be used as showing one situation from two seperate view points.

About Name of Author

Nick Hornby was born in Redhill, Surrey, England on April 17, 1957. He was educated at Cambridge University and currently lives in Highbury, North London. Hornby first worked as a journalist and published pieces in Elle, Vogue, GQ, Time, The Literary Review, and several others. He worked previously as an English teacher and a pop music critic for The New Yorker.He is a father of an autistic son and he and founded The Treehouse, a school for autistic children in London. Hornby's most acclaimed novels include High Fidelity, About a Boy, How to Be Good, and a Long Way Down. Nick is known for his references to pop culture through his texts, especially to sports and music. He has also published well-known non-fiction works such as Fever Pitch and Complete Polysyllabic Spree. Fever Pitch, High Fidelity, and About a Boy have all been adapted to films.

Multimedia (Video or Audio)

The following video is of the author of Slam, Nick Hornby, during an interview about the book and the themes it presents.

In this next video, Nick Hornby reads an excerpt from Slam.

Additional Resources:

--Saralynn Bush, Kendra Hilton, Jennifer Krygier, and Krashawn McElveen.
Other Wikireviews by these creators:
Drowning Anna by Sue Mayfield
Smashed by Koren Zailckas