Slam; A Young Adult Novel

Nick Hornby. SLAM. England: Putnam Juvenile, 2007.

SLAM.jpg Have you ever felt like the only person you could talk to was not a person at all, rather an object? That the only way to express your inner feelings and deepest secrets was to a poster, one which could say nothing in response? Many young adults may know exactly that feeling and can vividly imagine the whom or what they talk to when they simply need to vent. This poster (or mentor to the protagonist) is a key part of Sam's life. Nick Hornby continually engages the famous skater Tony Hawk into the novel as the escape and guidance for the main character Sam. Although he is best known for About a Boy or High Fidelity, Nick Hornby’s newer novel SLAM might be something that a teacher might consider adding to their curriculum. There are some aspects in SLAM that might be considered part of a traditional love story, and there are other parts which are considered original.

We begin the novel with Sam framing the story. He is in the present about to tell us about the last two or three years of his life. Sam first tells us about his family. Most notable, his mother had him when she was 17. We then follow through his meeting and dating his first real girlfriend, Alicia. Being young and in love, Sam and Alicia find the first few weeks exhilarating and have no desire to be separated. Sam and Alicia quickly advance their physical relationship; within the first date, the young couple sleeps together.

After Sam and Alicia have a whirlwind start to their relationship they find that they are sick of each other and split from one another. Not long after their relationship ends Sam learns that Alicia is pregnant. Now he and Alicia must find a way to co-exist with one another, their families and a child.

Although these are the general points that one might find in a novel about young love, Hornby includes so much more. What makes this novel more than a typical love story is it’s incorporation of a major cultural figure as well as the playing with time.

First of all, the skater Tony Hawk is a major part of young Sam’s life. Sam has read Hawk’s autobiography hundreds of times and has a large poster of him hanging on his bedroom wall. As a religious man might pray or speak to his god, Sam speaks with Tony Hawk; but more importantly, Tony Hawk speaks back. Whenever something happens in his life Sam goes to Tony for advice.

The other aspect that makes this book unique is the travel into the future. It is somewhat relatable to déjà vous. There are a few instances in which Sam wakes up in the future, which he explains that Tony Hawk has “whizzed” him to the future. In these instances everyone around him knows exactly what is going on while he is clueless. These glimpses into the future are not simply dreams, but they are actual events that will take place.

Recommendations and Thoughts for Teachers
Young adult literature has the potential to be moving and relatable for any teen or young adult. While some of young adult literature is questioned by adults, it does not mean the work is not a worth-while or engaging read for the intended audience. "Slam" is a novel many students may quickly accept because it may be relatable to the topics they are hearing in school, but other adults in the youth's life may reject the work (for various reasons). "Slam" by Nick Hornby is one such book that could possibly be rejected due to controversial topics which may be construed as not appropriate for the intended age group. The book deals with the concept of pregnancy, which to some is considered very adult. With proper and careful preparation the book is completley acceptable to teach in a secondary classroom environment. This preparation would include advising and informing parents of the topic and thoroughly explaining to students what is happening in Sam's life so they are comfortable with the material. "Slam" can be viewed as holding numerous life lessons which include, how to handle adult situations when they are brought upon you, the consequences of one's actions, and the idea or lesson of a relationship with one's family. The book is unique from other young adult novels. It deals with issues which are real and dramatic and does not hold back. "Slam" is a wonderful book which if taught in the appropriate manner can be a great asset to the classroom.

About Nick Hornbyexternal image svhornby20.jpg
Nick Hornby, born April 17 1957 in Redhill, Surrey, England, worked as an English teacher and a journalist prior to his career as an author. On his website, he lists his education as "Cambridge (English) and Highbury (Football/Facts of life)." He is best known for his books Fever Pitch (1992), High Fidelity (1995), and About a Boy (1998), all adapted into succsessful films. The autobiographical football memoir Fever Pitch is very interesting when it comes to learning more about the author. In it, Hornby describes his love affair with football and Arsenal in particular, and how his fanatical obsession with the game affected his life. It was first adapted as a film in 1997. Hornby wrote the screenplay himself. Starring Colin Firth (famous from the BBC series Pride and Prejudice and movies such as Love Actually) as the main character the movie was more of a romantic comedy than an autobiography. In 2005, an American remake of the movie was made, were the protagonist is no longer a fan of football ("soccer") in general and Arsenal Football Club in particular, but baseball and the Boston Red Sox.

Multimedia (Video)

The video below is a video from YouTube with Nick Hornby. He is at the Apple Store on Regent Street in England reading an excerpt of his book to the audience.

This next video is also from the same event and venue. Nick Hornby is answering some questions from the public. Hopefully the second video will give you some insight to the author as well as the story.

Below is an interview with Nick Hornby on the radio show The Sound of Young America:

The Sound of Young America: Nick Hornby

Also, here is a podcast produced by the authors of this wiki on the novel:
Right click on the episode artwork below, right click and select save target as to download or below click on the audio player below to listen


Additional Resources:
Penguin Books-Slam The page is a simple synopsis of the book and pricing. It allows one to read about the book and get a better feel for what they are about to experience.
Nick's Books This website is the main webpage for Nick Hornby. It allows one to see the other books he has written, videos of the author, and other important links.
Nick Hornby's Penguin Homepage Hornby's official homepage at Penguin.
Nick Hornby at Internet Movie Database This page links to the movies based on Hornby's books.
An Interview with Nick Hornby This is an interview with Nick Hornby from The Atlantic.
Nick Hornby News Here is news and articles from the New York Times Archives involving Nick Hornby
Nick Hornby on eBooks This is an interesting article by Nick Hornby with his stance on eBooks
Nick Hornby on Wikipedia To learn more about the other check out his page on Wikipedia
Tony Hawk's Official Website If you are at all interested in skating or Sam's favorite skater, this is a link to Tony Hawk's site.
Skateboarding Tips If you want to know more about skateboarding or get some tips, this is a link to some video tips.
Help for Troubled Teen This website is a guide and help page for struggling teens. It is a good reference for those who read the book and feel they may need outside reference or help on an issue in life.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy This website is a place to find data and statistics on teen and unplanned pregnancy as well as other resources.
Pregnant Teen Help Resources for teens and parents about teen pregnancy