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3.2 out of 5 stars
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on 16 December 2015
You could at least warn buyers that this version (the first you're presented with if you search for "Nick Hornby Slam") is an ANNOTATED LEARNER'S VERSION for German students, with numbered lines and footnotes explaining "difficult" words.
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Sam Jones, 16 - the age of his mother when he was born. Skateboarding is his passion - champion Tony Hawk his guru, autobiography his much thumbed Bible. A poster of Hawk dominates the bedroom wall, consulted whenever in need of advice.

Second passion? New girlfriend Alicia.

Quite an enjoyable life really.

"WARNING! YOU MUST HAVE AN IQ OF A BILLION TO PUT THIS ON PROPERLY!"

Too late Sam learns the limitations of condoms - all at once to be plunged into a world of care and ever-increasing responsibilities.

Here is humour with gritted teeth, the study of an adolescent mind when "disaster" strikes. What to do now? Cut and run? (That brief interlude in Hastings amuses but does not convince.) Insist on an abortion? Be there to support? Tony Hawk can hardly help with this one. Suddenly all becomes mysterious: Sam "whizzed" into a vivid future where he makes every mistake in the book. Forewarned is forearmed. When that future arrives for real, Sam is far better able to cope with it.

An angst-filled read, which I rather enjoyed. It is not just about Sam, of course, but the people around him - Alicia especially. The end may disappoint some, but others may find it rings true and proves heartening.
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Nick Hornby has always specialized in the tales of young, rather lost men in a modern world. "About A Boy," "High Fidelity," et cetera.

Well, this time it's a young, rather lost BOY who is forced to grow up too fast, in Hornby's first foray into young adult fiction, "Slam." It's a gently humorous, rather bewildered story, albeit one that occasionally reads like a sex ed cautionary tale.

Sam is an ordinary kid, from a line of people who always messed up their lives early on. He loves skateboarding, talks to his Tony Hawk poster, wants to be a graphic art designer, and his love life is just starting to bloom. So he's blindsided when his ex-girlfriend Alicia reveals that she's pregnant, and that she intends to keep the baby.

Suddenly Sam is facing Alicia's snobby parents, his shattered dreams, and the fear that he can't be a good dad. Somehow his Tony Hawk poster flashes him months into the future, giving him glimpses of how his life will suddenly twist. And when Alicia has the baby, Sam finds that he needs to grow up in a hurry -- for his son, his parents, and the changes that are happening way too early.

To be honest, my first reaction to "Slam" was a pained groan. Nick Hornby crafts really insightful, unique fiction, and a story about teen pregnancy just seemed so.... simple. After all, there are only a few ways a pregnancy can turn out, and all but one don't make for a very long story.

But Hornby spins the story in his usual laid-back, meditative style, full of contemplative moments and pop culture references. It feels like reading a gently humorous memoir, but one with a painful sting of regret. And Hornby doesn't entirely abandon the "maturing" theme -- it's very much about growing from a child to an adult, and delicately outlines all the conflicting emotions and problems Sam faces.

And surprisingly, though you know pretty much how the story will turn out, Hornby does throw some twists into the story, such as what's going on with Sam's mother. And the whole magical-realism aspect of it -- time travel, the talking poster -- is a little awkward at first, but eventually it settles into the plot nicely.

Sam himself is a likable kid -- he's confused, scared, and tries to be supportive despite not feeling like it. But over time, we see him turning into a young man who will handle his responsibilities. The other characters tend to be thinner -- Alicia is rather whiny, her parents are contemptuous snobs, and Sam's dad is a jerk.

"Slam" is basically a younger version of Hornby's best-loved stories -- the ones that show a boy becoming a man. In this case, literally, and with great sensitivity.
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on 4 March 2010
Things are finally going right for 15-year-old Sam; it looks likely he'll go to college, his Mum has dumped her crap boyfriend, and he now has a gorgeous girlfriend, Alicia. Everything is great - until one tiny slip up changes everything Sam knows. Alicia falls pregnant, and this kid has to face adult responsibilities, but is he up to it?

This book is so good! A lot better than I thought it would be. It's a story you would think is not worth reading; it seems teenagers get pregnant a lot, and there's only three endings, so why bother reading? Because this book gets right into Sam's head, and having the male perspective is such an eye opener.

Sam is a skater, and a huge Tony Hawk fan. His being a skater is where the title comes from; in skating, when you slam - as I understand it - it's when you fall off your board badly, so the title is metaphorical for him slamming in life. He has read Tony Hawk's autobiography Hawk - Occupation: Skateboader so many times, he's pretty much memorised it. So when he needs to turn to somebody to talk to, he turns to his Tony Hawk poster, who talks back to him; meaning, Sam will say something, and his memory will come up with something related Hawk wrote in his book. And it helps. But Hawk does some funny things too. Like somehow managing to take Sam into the future. Without telling Sam.

The story of Slam is told by Sam at 18, and it's very conversational, so when Sam first talks about being "whizzed" to the future, he says:

"Most of the story I'm telling you happened to me for sure, but there are a couple of little parts, weird parts, I'm not absolutely positive about. I'm pretty sure I didn't dream them up, but I couldn't swear that on Tony Hawk's
book, which is my bible. So we're about to come up to one of these parts now, and all I can do is tell it straight. You'll have to make your own minds up."
P 86

The book is full of Hawk info, and these funny little future visits, which make the book different. I learnt a lot about skating through reading this book, but it's not the main focus of the book, so it's not like you'll be bored if you're not a skating fan.

What I loved about this book was how much I felt for Sam. To be honest, before I read this book, I would have thought if a girl was pregnant, and the dad wanted to scarper, he was... well, a loser, to put things nicely. But reading this book, I kept wanting to put it down so I didn't have to read it; so I could escape what Sam couldn't. I really understood where Sam was coming from, and it really makes you think that the guy's life changes too when a girl gets pregnant, not just the girl's. I felt it was so unfair when Sam didn't get any say in the decision about whether Alicia had the baby or not, or most things. He was just expected to do things; you're the Dad, you must do this, and have no choice, while Alicia makes all the decisions. This book makes you completely understand what the guys can go through, and it is so unfair - which is a complete shock to the system for me, as I've always felt guys who leave the girls to deal with it on their own are not very nice people at all. I won't tell you whether they keep the baby or not, I don't want to spoil it, but this was such a good book!

There weren't really any sex scenes in this book, but that's fine as it wouldn't be believable for Sam to tell you exactly what happened. It just wouldn't happen, Sam's not like that. What is cute though is that he has problems talking about certain things. Like, he never uses the word "ejaculation", you can feel his embarrassment. It's annoying and a bit confusing, but endearing at the same time.

This book is just so awesome! It's kind of sad and frustrating being an outsider and unable to give him a hug or some advice or something, and having to just watch everything he knows go out of his control, but the ending is pretty good. I liked how it ended, it felt like a good way to do it, and although not perfect, it was right. A great book, all in all. You really should give it a go.
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VINE VOICEon 4 November 2007
Nick Hornby has always written about boys. For a start, most of his main characters are Peter Pan types, boy-men who can't quite make the final leap into adulthood. Secondly, he's an ex-teacher, and his eye for teen angst is no doubt based on close-quarters observation.

Boy-men aren't always the best fathers, though - and that's the "big issue" he confronts in Slam. This is Hornby's first foray into "young adult" fiction, with the story told first-person by teenage Sam, who repeated his own mother's mistake and accidentally embarked on parenthood at the age of sixteen.

Hornby gives us a convincing portrait of a bewildered and not very bright boy, obsessed with skateboarding and only vaguely interested in the girl he's inadvertently impregnated. His best friend is an imaginary one - for like the unseen Elvis in True Romance, skater hero Tony Hawks talks to him from the poster on his bedroom wall. Actually everything he says is a quotation from Hawks' autobiography, the contents of which Sam has almost by heart, but the sentiments are helpful anyway.

What saves the book from developing into one of those drearily well-meaning "issue-led" novels designed for the moral education of young people is Hornby's own wit and inventiveness. For in the absence of a useful father-figure, Tony Hawks helps Sam to see what his life might hold by regularly "whizzing" him into a future filled with premature responsibilities and cares within a relationship that's run its course. Like his Life On Mars namesake, Sam doesn't have the necessary knowledge or understanding to cope with steering his own "future" self and this yields much scope for wry comedy, especially when Sam has to guess at the name of his own infant son.

Aided by these magical glimpses into alternative realities, Sam's finally able to come to some kind of accommodation with the present. But is this really a book for teenage lads? I tested its readability on my own almost-15 year old son, who loved the twists and turns of the story but dismissed its protagonist as "a bit of an idiot" who couldn't tell a good thing when he saw it. Perhaps some boys are really more adult than the adults who write about them.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 October 2007
I've been a huge fan of Hornby's since the early days, including his non-fiction, and this step into YA lit feels totally natural. After all, so many of his protagonists (including himself) are young men struggling to come to terms with adulthood and the responsibilities of "growing up." Here, the dilemma is much the same, however it's much more direct, and instead of a young man grappling adulthood, it's a teenage boy grappling with the implications of a monumental adult responsibility.

I'm guessing there have been a number of good YA books about teen pregnancy -- and if that's the case, add this one to the list. The simple story is narrated by 18-year-old North London lad Sam, reflecting back over the past two years. While it's pretty bare bones -- the cast doesn't really extend beyond Sam, his girlfriend, their respective parents, and two skater acquaintances -- things are made livelier though the device of having Sam discuss his problems with a poster of legendary pro skater Tony Hawk (whose responses are passages Sam has memorized from Hawk's autobiography). There are also a few jumps into dream sequence/time-travel which break up the straightforward narrative, although they don't actually add up to that much.

The book's real strength comes from Hornby's ability to capture the inner life of a teenage boy while avoiding all the usual pitfalls. Sam is neither too articulate nor too dense, and he's basically a well-adjusted, pleasant teen who hasn't gotten into any trouble -- until now. His narrative is full Hornby's trademark observational wit, although without nearly as many pop culture trappings as usual. The book certainly carries a cautionary message about teen sex, but it's never hectoring or reductionist. There's a strong sense of hopefulness for Sam, despite the deep hole he's dug himself. It's not an amazing book, but certainly a cut above the average.
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I wasn't particularly looking forward to reading Nick Hornby's `Slam', his first teenage novel. It was nineteen years since I was last a teenager and even then I think I was probably too old for the term to really stick. However this was a novel by Nick Hornby whose `High Fidelity' is my favourite novel; whose `Fever Pitch' is my favourite memoir; I think you get the idea, I like Nick Hornby, I don't however like teenagers. Anyway there was nothing for it, I had to roll up my sleeves, grit my teeth, grasp the nettle and take the book by the spine.

I'm so glad I did, what a fantastic and painfully funny book. Certainly Hornby's best since `About a Boy' with which it sets a fairly consistent tone. This is quite remarkable as `Slam' is written in the first person as a teenage boy. Although `About a Boy' was very insightful into the mind of an adolescent boy and his relationship with the adults around him it didn't have to do it in the boy's voice. `Slam' is written in a very convincing voice of a fifteen year old boy, although the language and passions for music and skating very much tie the novel to the present the spirit in which it is written ties it to teenagers of any generation and consequently I can feel a certain empathy for a teenager I could obviously have fathered.

I don't want to tell you anything of the plot as it would spoil the book to hear about it in my voice rather than `Sam's', trust me it's better than the blurb which relies too heavily on the Tony Hawks fandom to give a balanced appreciation of the book.

I think that the reason that Sam's voice in `Slam' works is that it still resonates with the same passion as Rob's did in `High Fidelity'. Perhaps the reason Hornby and even I can understand this character so well is that we belong to the first generation that never grew up, we are still essentially teenagers. The four hundred or so middle aged men jumping up and down to `Teenage Kicks' at a recent Undertones concert I attended possibly suffer from the same malaise.
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on 2 February 2009
Athough I enjoyed reading this witty insight into teenage parenthood I did feel that maybe Hornby had written this for young adults. I would certainly recommend it as obligatory reading material for the early teens age group. Reading this would maybe help them to understand the problems of not considering the consequences of having a sexual relationship!
The story is written from the viewpoint of Sam, an eighteen year old young man who two years previously had become a teenage parent. It happened at a time in his life when he had felt that things were just beginning to click into place. He was getting on well with his mother, had plans for going to college and had a lovely girlfriend Alicia.Then Alicia gets pregnant unexpectedly and the young couple find themselves confronted with adult problems which they are unable to cope with alone. However they are fortunate to have very supportive parents. Sam's account of the situation has some very funny scenes and some of his comments seen from an adult point of view are very amusing.
So I feel that even if I this book was not particularly aimed at me personally it is well written and I think it will appeal to others.
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on 19 February 2014
Slam is about a guy called Sam Jones (could the author have a picked a more boring generic name?) who gets a girl he sort-of-maybe-loves pregnant. And that's it. The plot is barely a plot, and is more a short story idea that was used as an excuse to hang a novel on. Or a subplot of something bigger, a side story, except there isn't anything bigger going on. And yet it's still pretty entertaining.

The main character is like a typical average sixteen year old. He's selfish, scared of life and his future, a bit of a weakling, and all he's thinking about is getting with a chick. The scenes seemed mainly realistic throughout, although were obviously heightened for comedic purposes, as well as the dialogue. I just sensed a lack of any real depth. It was more like a cute, funny story that had been stretched into a novel. He almost makes writing seem easy.

Apart from that minor quibble, it's an OK book, a quick read that I never got bored with, and if you don't want something life-changing, or you want something for the beach/weekend, etc., this should be perfect for you.
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VINE VOICEon 15 September 2010
Hornby's last novel before this one, "How To Be Good", was startlingly bleak, so it's a relief to find him in a more positive mood this time. "Slam" is the story of an ordinary skateboarding teenager who accidentally gets his girlfriend pregnant: everything leads up to and flows from that momentary mistake. Our narrator, Sam, is a likeable but by no means flawless lad, meaning no harm but appalled by the prospect of his future closing down, and the book is his journey through a thicket of arguments and decisions and consequences towards something better than just coping.

Hornby depicts modern fragmented families and impermanent relationships, not as a good or bad thing but as an unavoidable reality to be dealt with. His characters don't stumble into better futures; rather, they adjust themselves to meet what's coming: his endings aren't so much 'happy' as 'manageable'. He captures the texture of contemporary life and culture; his prose is immediately addictive and his dialogue sharp and natural.

And best of all, this book is extremely funny. Couldn't put it down.
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