“Slam” by Nick Hornby
I finished “Slam” recently, and it’s one of my favorite YA books of all time. The premise and outcome are realistic, but there are some fantasy aspects to Sam’s life that will make this book interesting to teens who are reluctant readers.
Sam is a skater (that’s on a skateboard, he tells us, not ice). At fifteen, he’s pretty easy-going. While his parents are divorced (he lives with his mum), and neither reached their life’s goal, he attributes this to the fact that they married too young because his mom was pregnant with him at sixteen. One of the important lessons of his life is not to repeat that mistake.
Becoming a father too early doesn’t seem like an issue for Sam. He’s no lady’s man and he looks to the skater Tony Hawk for advice—that is, he looks to a poster of Tony Hawk for advice. This is very funny because when Sam asks the poster of Hawk a question, the answer is always a direct quote from Hawk’s autobiography. (Sam has read it so many times that he knows it by heart.) Yet Sam meets a beautiful girl who has just broken up with her boyfriend. They fall madly in love (or so it seems), and are intimate immediately. They can’t bear to be away from one another—that is for about three weeks.
So Sam is already beginning to get bored of the relationship when Alicia sends him an urgent text-message on his sixteenth birthday to tell him she is pregnant. From here, Tony Hawk often propels Sam into the future without Sam having any knowledge of what has passed in the interim. (Why does his son have a dumb name like ‘Roof’? Sam wants to know.)
And here’s where I want to stop the plot summary, and say that this is why I like this book so much. Most books on teen pregnancy that I’ve read have unrealistic endings—they are too happy (the couple gets together) or too sad (no one helps the girl out and she is plunged into despair or suicide). In “Slam,” Sam and Alicia’s parents are trying to make this easier for them, but there is never a doubt that this is a mistake, and it will make both of their lives much harder. In addition, the teens realize about three weeks too late that what they are experiencing isn’t true love and it isn’t long-lasting. They are two very separate people with a baby in common.
Despite the tough subject matter, the novel is often hilarious. And if you are a skater, there’s the bonus that lots of the action and narrative is about something you love. Read it!