slam, by nick hornby.
as i said in a recent post, i’ve started reading a handful of young adult fiction. i find it helpful to see what kids are glomming onto as their books of choice. but this book, i picked up because i’m a nick hornby fan (hornby wrote about a boy, high fidelity, fever pitch, a long way down, and many others. see this amazon page for all of those.).
to my knowledge, slam is hornby’s first young adult book. i’m fascinated to hear (anyone know?) why he chose to write for this audience at this point in his career. it seems more limited for an already-successful author.
anyhow. slam is the first-person story of a 15 year-old london boy who gets his (semi-ex-) girlfriend pregnant (hornby totally nails the teen voice, btw). sam (the narrator) also has an obsession with skateboarding (though he loathes that term, and insists on calling it skating, even when people think he must mean figure skating), and, particularly, tony hawk. sam “prays” (he never calls it that, but it clearly IS that) to a tony hawk poster in his room, and hears responses from tony hawk that are all lines out of tony hawk’s autobiography (which sam has read 40 or 50 times, enough to have access to all the lines). then there’s this weird element, where tony hawk somehow zooms sam into the future a couple times. you get the sense it might be a dream (and sam wonders this also); but he knows people in the future he hasn’t met in present time, and eventually does meet them. so the future-zipping thing seems to be real, somehow.
even with sam’s knowledge of aspects of his future (the future bits all happen after his son is born), sam still discovers that it’s not set in stone. the general framework seems to come true (some day); but the details are still highly pliable, based on his decisions.
this is the tool that hornby uses to talk about responsibility, decision-making, and other important teen issues. really, i can hardly conceive of a book for teens, about choices and responsibility, that wouldn’t come off as preachy. this doesn’t. i’d highly recommend this book to teen readers (and to parents, for their kids).
thanks to steve carter for this, an article in which hornby explains why he wrote a young adult book.