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Slam by Nick Hornby

By Mrs. Walker | Books | April 30, 2009 |

By Mrs. Walker | Books | April 30, 2009 |

Nick Hornby wrote a Young Adults novel. It’s a term I hate and it’s definitely the Nick Hornby novel I like least of all. So here we go.

Sam is a 16-year-old skateboard enthusiast who falls abruptly into a passionate love affair with the beautiful Alicia, just as abruptly falls out of love with her, but manages to get her knocked up in the interim (and he kind of knows about it, I should mention). His mother had him when she was 16 so he knows how big a deal this is so he promptly runs away to Hastings (lame, proto-seaside location), as you do, finds it appalling and runs back to face up to responsibilities. Along the way, he gets morphed into the future through the magical interference of his poster of Tony Hawks (really).

I have a couple of problems with all this. Firstly, the character of Sam is portrayed with an affectless naivete which renders him almost moronic — I’m the first to concede that teenagers, both male and female, frequently have not got a great deal going on up top (I know, having been a particularly brainless exemplar of the species in my own time), but this takes the biscuit. Sam is apparently unaware of the mechanics of impregnation, clueless about the particulars of said pregnancy and is hugely lacking in empathy for his erstwhile girlfriend, instead preferring a form of class warfare against her parents.

Next, there is at no time a discussion of alternatives available to the happy couple. I am not going to suggest that abortion is a marvellous or happy thing, but it is a viable and often extremely sensible alternative to completely ruining your youthful life plans and yet modern squeamishness refuses to address it in any sensible, measured way without having the screaming abdabs. Honestly, when last in any piece of fiction do you remember someone having an abortion and it being the right thing to do? Never, that’s right. In this determinedly downbeat piece, at no point does Alicia even entertain the possibility of just not having the damn thing. The miracle of sodding life you see.

Yes, again, I am in a terrible mood, but this pretty much captures my feelings at the time of reading so I’m probably only being a tiny bit more terse than I might normally be. Also, it’s unremittingly gloomy outlook is pretty trying. In contrast to my previous statement about abortion, a pregnancy really needn’t be the end of the world but Hornby is clearly wholly convinced of the entire horribleness of it all. I guess it’s targeted at sexually active teens, a bit of a message novel, and it really thumps home hard. Were I still a teen, I think I would be insulted by such an obvious tactic — and also bored. Bit less heavy with the morals please Hornby.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. For more of Mrs. Walker’s review, please see her blog.

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