Sunday, January 6, 2008

Slam

Slam, by Nick Hornby
$13.59 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 0399250484
Hornby is the noted author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, and numerous other character-driven light dramas. This is his first book written specifically for young adults, and it's mighty good reading.
Sam, our young hero, is about to turn sixteen when the story begins. He starts the story having sex with a young lady named Alicia, who soon becomes pregnant with his child. When will these teenagers learn?

As it happens, Sam's own parents were quite young when they had him, so he's especially familiar with the hardships of being a teenaged parent, having been raised by one himself. Sam is a likable young man, who sort of goes off the deep end when he realizes how his dreams of being a professional skateboarder or graphic designer may all be lost because of one momentary lapse in judgement.
So the story deals with a very serious issue: teen parenthood; but it 
doesn't get too dark or gloomy. For one thing, Sam's parents are very supportive and act exactly the ways you'd want them to in their situation. Alicia is a bit of a ding-bat, and after the thrill of nailing her wears off Sam becomes a bit bored by her. She's interesting because she also isn't sure how to proceed, and seems to look to Sam for guidance. She's not the brightest, but only wants to do what's best for everyone.
Salvation comes from Sam's idol: professional skateboarder Tony Hawk. For those of you not familiar, Mr. Hawk is not just an outstanding athlete and hero 
to a generation of young men, but also an all-around good guy. No, Tony doesn't just magically solve all of Sam's problems, but he does put a difficult situation into valuable perspective.
Many of literature's great themes are here: romance, coming of age, and overcoming what seems like hopeless adversity. Sam has a difficult time at first: he runs away from his home and his responsibilities, which naturally, only makes things worse. In the long run, of course, he comes out on top.
Some of the story-telling is non-linear: it takes place in dream sequences and fantasies about the future. The characters are all realistic and beautifully developed, and the plot is poignant. This is a good choice for a young man in your life, or for an adult reader looking for something light. A must-read for Nick Hornby fans, of course.

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