Saturday, August 15, 2009

Slam by Nick Hornby

This is an early post...sorry! I am leaving for my mother's house in CT and am not sure what the internet access will be so I thought I would blog early...just in case.

This book was Nick Hornby's first foray in to YA fiction, and he has since written others for teens. I enjoyed his adult novels, but this is the first I've read of his YA works. I liked it! A lot! I think perhaps I was drawn to this book because I live with a 17 year old skateboarder. I really wanted him to read the book, but so far I have not convinced him! I think all teenage boys should read it...if nothing else it is a good cautionary tale.

I found myself drawn to Sam's character. I liked how he was honest, funny, and tries to do the right thing. I liked his relationship with his mother as well. I thought Hornby's insight into this topic of teen pregnancy was realistic as well as cautionary! I loved how it wasn't a "happily ever after" makes you realize that stuff happens and the answer isn't always to get married and live happily ever after, sometimes you just have to cope...and that the concept of family is flexible. Plus, it is nice to have a book on this topic told from the male perspective.

I did find a couple aspects of the novel a bit bothersome- the fact that it takes place in took me a while to get used to the language and British references, and the sections where he goes into the future. The whizzing forward sections where a bit confusing at first, but once I "got it" I like how it moved the story along...and I liked the glimpse of him and Alicia at the end. Overall I felt this book was well written and I could easily recommend it to students...although, because of the writing style I think it would work best for more sophisticated readers. I can't imagine that everyone in the blog will love this book, I am really anxious to see what you all thought!


Maria said...

I wasn't sure if I liked this book at first, but in the end I did, and I would recommend it to teen readers. As a mom of two teenaged daughters, it made me a wreck :) I think this book shows the problems that teens face with teenage pregnancy. It puts the reader in a "what if" situation and may make teens think about how they might handle a similar situation in real life. I really liked Sam's character - he was an overall average kid from any town any where. I think the novel portrayed his reactions, fears, impulsivities, immaturity, and thoughts in a realistic manner. I felt badly for him at times, but it is realistic to know that "bad" choices are made by "good" kids, as well. Also, I think he needed to go through the experiences mentioned (running away, etc.) in order to come to terms with reality and his responsibility to his son. I think the family structures portrayed in the book could lead to interesting discussion in class. Alicia's family was a well-to-do family with both parents living in a nice home. Sam's was the opposite; yet, Sam's mother was more in touch and supportive, and he turns out to be the more "together" kid. He seems to hold it together once he accepts his responsibility. The reader sees how Alicia's family isn't all that it appears. I believe there are many factors that teens can relate to in this book. The one difficult thing for me to accept as a reader was being whizzed into the future. I was OK with him talking to TH and hearing the responses he got from the book TH wrote - he connected with the book, so at times it fit into his life. BUT, being whizzed into the future was weird - I am assuming it was daydreaming, but it was odd how he thought TH put him there and how accurate his "daydreams" were.... Anyway, I liked this novel, and I would recommend it to my classes with a 5 minute crash course in English terms (bollock, crisps, loo, queue, etc...)

Dawn said...

I am torn on what to say about this book. I liked it, but I wonder what message will stand out for students. It almost seemed to give the message of if you get pregnant everything ends up ok. I did like Sam’s character and seeing the struggle he went through when he found out that Alicia was pregnant. I do wonder why Alicia had sex with Sam quickly when she said that she would not have sex with her ex-boyfriend. Was sex really the reason that she broke up with Jason? I really liked Sam’s character, so I was kind of hoping that the baby was Jason’s when he ran into him in college. I didn’t think Alicia was a nice person, so I thought she was completely capable of saying the baby was Sam’s when it wasn’t.
I am interested in a conversation on whether people think Sam was more likely to have a baby young because his mother did. Experts always say things like if something happened to you then you are more likely to do that thing to others. So, I wonder if his mother having him as a teenager led to him having a baby early. I know he did not want a baby and always talked about how he was going to be different, but ultimately he ended up in the same situation.
Personally, I felt that Sam talking to his poster made him that much more immature. Maybe that was intended by the author to show that he is a young man and ended up with a baby. I think it was realistic though because TH would be someone that a young boy would look up to.
Finally I have to say I loved the difference in language. It was a refreshing change to read things like bloke, cinema, mum and crisps.

Lisa said...


Lisa said...

This was definitely a quick, easy read. I did like like the book and didn't want to put it down. I think this would make for some very interesting conversations with students. I wasn't crazy about the Tony Hawk conversations, however, I felt that TH was his hero/father figure that really didn't exist in his life. I too was a bit confused by the whizzing to the future. It remeinded me of The Time Traverler's Wife. I was also confused at the beginning of that movie. Once I figured it out I was fine!! I was so hoping that Jason was the father. I agree with Dawn about Alicia's reason to have sex so soon with Sam. I also think that our students could relate to many of the situations in the book. I would definitely recommend this book to others. I also liked the English language used in the book. I think Hornby was successful with YA fiction.

Maria said...

Going on what Dawn and Lisa both said, I was glad for the baby that Jason was NOT the father; now the baby stands a chance with a kid who is at least trying to be a good dad. As far as Alicia not being a "nice" person, I agree that she was not as likable, but I wonder if she slept with Sam so soon after she wouldn't sleep with her old boyfriend because the boys were so different and maybe she was trying to hold onto Sam and the stability he represented to her by sleeping with him. He was different from other boys she dated, so maybe that had something to do with it. Also, maybe it was a control thing over Sam, or a way for her to show Sam she felt differently about him than she did other boys - teenage girls are not necessarily rational individuals in the area of boyfriends/love.

In addition, Dawn mentioned how studies show the recurrence of behaviors in families, so I think that was done on purpose in the novel to bring out that exact point. The behaviors appear to occur again (teenaged pregnancy/parenthood), yet it is a situation that an individual DOES have control over and it IS avoidable.

cvanslyk said...

I really did not like this book at first. It looked like it was going to be all about skating and talking to a poster. After getting into it, however, it was hard to put down. Sam seemed like a very self centered, immature person who was disrespectful to his pregnant girlfriend. As the book continued, he became much more likable and did his best to be a good father to Roof.

I agree with Kathy, that Sam had a good relationship with his mom. I also found TH conversations and the whizzing into the future annoying.

The fact that this book is from the male perspective would make it more interesting for teenage boys. It also moves along and is easy to read.

The statistics were alarming. 80% of teenage fathers lose touch with their kids completely after 15 years and Britain has the worst teenage pregnancy rates in Europe. I wonder how these facts would compare to rates in the US. 80% seems very high.

The part about Alecia's last boyfriend was very disappointing but also realistic. I was glad in the end that Roof was Sam's and that Alicia seemed to be a good mother. Another positive was that all the grandparents were supportive and appeared to love the baby.

I would recommend this book to some of my students, especially boys. There are also numerous topics that students could relate to and could be used to stimulate class discussions. This could also be a good book for use during specific units in Health Classes.

Mary said...

I usually do not read books about teenage pregnancy so I was unsure how I would feel about this book. I had to remind myself to consider the teenage point of view.I liked that it was told from the male perspective and think this would be a particularly good book to recommend to boys.

I think that the TH discussions and the whizzing were devices to make the book unique and to appeal to the YA reader. I could have done without them but that may be the adult perspective. I agree that these also serve to remind us that Sam is a boy, not a man.

It was interesting that from the start Sam's goal was to break the cycle. His mum did not gloss over their family situation at all. I was glad that the situation of teenage pregnancy was treated realistically. It also showed, as Maria stated, that "bad" choices can be made by "good" and well intended kids. Sam was more aware than most teens and certainly more aware than Alicia of the consequences.

I also wonder if Alicia slept with Sam so soon because she was under so much pressure from Jason, that sex (or no sex) was the main point of their relationship. After that serious of a relationship she might have felt she should be ready if the "right" boy came along. Instead of developing the new relationship she saw it as a good chance to prove (to herself? friends? ) she was ready.

I did not like that Alicia's parents knew what she was doing up in her room with Sam but figured the kids were being smart about it. I got the impression that Sam's mum would not let that fly.

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa said...

Mary, you made a great point about the TH conversations and whizzing...he is a boy, not a man. Although kids may make fun of Sam for doing this, they may relate. I still can't get over the fact that Alicia slept with him so soon. It almost seems like she was rebelling against her parents. Like Maria said, this is very scary since we have daughters. I agree that this may be a great option for boys to read.

Cherie said...

I was a little hesitant about the book at first. I had a hard time getting into the skateboarding and talking to a poster thing, but once I got past that part I really got into the book.

Like most of you probably did, I guessed what Sam's life changing situation was going to be. I found him to be very immature (well, like a 16 year old kid!) when he found out his girlfriend was pregnant. I think the book did a good job detailing the range of emotions that Sam went through when he got the news. I was truly happy that the book had a happier ending without making it seem like all teen pregnancies end "happily ever after"

I think that this would be a great book for teens to read, but I think it would be difficult for some to get past the language differences. Overall, I thought it was a good book.

Rebecca Kennedy said...

I enjoyed this book although I found it slow to get into. I didn't mind the talking to Tony Hawk but I did not really enjoy the "whizzing" into the future parts of the book. I thought it was weird and didn't really fit in with the rest of the book. I also agree that the book sort of paints the picture that while its not necessarily desirable, teen pregnancy is okay because everything works out in the end.

I'm not too sure how I felt about Alicia's character. At times I liked her but most of the time I found her annoying. I felt like she was acting out against her parents and rushed to have sex with Sam after refusing to do so in a past relationship. I'm not sure what turned me off specifically.

Overall I would recommend this book to students. I think that some students would enjoy this book but might be turned off by the British terminology. Or at least it might take them a while to get used to.

Kathy J. said...

I found the comments about the cycle of teen parents interesting. As I started reading the book, and knowing what was coming, I was sad that in this case the cycle was not going to be broken! And, again, not because Sam's mother was a bad mother, she wasn' just goes back to the concept that sometimes good kids make bad could happen to anyone. But I really wanted Sam to not be a statistic! Got those rose colored glasses on again.