Slam by Nick Hornby. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2007.
Slam, Hornby’s first foray into young adult fiction, is narrated by Sam, a teenage boy that must learn to be a man. Sam’s hero is skateboarder Tony Hawk and, as Sam’s life takes a downward turn, he turns to “TH” for advice. The poster in Sam’s bedroom typically throws words from Hawk’s autobiography back at him, but then he begins showing Sam his future. Sam doesn’t particular like what he sees as it confirms his worst fears -- his ex-girlfriend is pregnant and he’s about to be a father.
Hornby handles the problems and pressures surrounding teenage pregnancy as well as Sam’s coming of age expertly. He’s pretty good at creating the voice of a teenage boy, which, if you’ve read his short story, "Otherwise Pandemonium," you will recognize. I have a feeling the short story was a test run. Anyway, the voice was completely believable to me.
It was interesting to see Hornby play with his earlier pattern. In High Fidelity and About a Boy, the main characters are men who still act like boys, but who finally learn to be men during the course of the novel. Sam doesn’t have the opportunity to grow into a man child because he has a child of his own. He learns the lessons of Hornby’s earlier characters much sooner and much more quickly than Rob or Will.
I’m not normally a YA reader, but had to read Slam because of my love of Hornby’s work. I was not disappointed. If you haven’t picked up a Hornby book yet, consider Slam as an option. And really, if you haven’t picked up a Hornby book yet after nearly a year of me praising him, you should be ashamed of yourself. :)