Slam is another novel from Nick Hornby, one of my favourite authors. Whilst not up to his previous highs of A Long Way Down, or High Fidelity, the book has some good things going for it. It is written in Hornby’s usual light and witty style. And again, he deals with some serious issues.
Sam is a teenage boy who loves skateboarding. He’s been brought up by his mum, who was a teenage parent when she had him, and doesn’t he know it! He almost carries around the guilt that he ruined her life and he is determined not to fall into the same trap. But generally has a good relationship with his mum. He is a fairly typical teenager – one who is bored by school and who ends relationships simply by stopping calling.
However, by accident (of course), he gets Alicia, his girlfriend, pregnant. His initial reaction is to run away to Hastings, get a job, start a new life, and forget about everything. Of course, that doesn’t work and he comes home and faces up to what has happened. The rest of the book is about how Sam deals with it and comes to some maturity. Near the end, once the baby is born, the book starts to drag a little, but as I said, there are a few good points worth looking at.
Firstly, the book shows quite clearly that sex can make babies, even when you try to be careful. Current society has divorced sex from family in a way that often hides this. At no point in the book is the pregnancy a ‘problem’ that just needs to be ‘dealt with’. The pregnancy is always a baby. Abortion is mentioned but Sam and Alicia never seriously consider it (although it might have been interesting to see in the book how this conversation might have gone). Their priority is to get through the next nine months and afterwards.
Secondly, Hornby employs an interesting way for Sam to think through his feelings. Sam, being a skateboarder is a huge fan of skateboarding legend Tony Hawk (who is actually a real person). Sam has a poster of Tony on his bedroom wall and knows the words to Tony Hawk’s autobiography by heart. As a result, Sam seems to talk to Tony through the poster, and Tony talks back through the words of his book, Tony acts as a sort of interactive god to Sam, giving advice and thoughts. This reminded me a little of the Orthodox use of icons in order to commune with God, except that Tony isn’t God. It shows Sam’s need for a spiritual ‘other’ – a higher power to aspire to and to guide.
The end of the book starts to drag a little, especially once the baby is born. And it gets a little predictable. Not Nick Hornby’s best book by any means, but it’s a short read, has some funny moments, and some thoughtful ones.