In a way Slam is just another piece of Nick Hornby’s canon – a man who is having fun and needs to grow up but as of now has yet to. Whether it be in works like High Fidelity or About a Boy, the protagonists in Hornby’s most memorable works are faced with some very adult concerns, but have refused to face that section of life for whatever reason. Of course, where Slam flips the script a little bit is when the protagonist is in fact still a kid – admittedly a kid old enough to have sex, but a kid nonetheless.
Sam Jones when we meet him is a sixteen year old young bloke of average repute in England in the current day. He skateboards, loves Tony Hawk, dates from time to time, usual stuff. His mother had him when he was a teenager and is split from his father – the parents themselves are overgrown kids to a degree. In fact his mother, coming off of dumping a boyfriend, has an invitation to a party and brings Sam along. There Sam meets the family’s daughter Alicia. As one can probably tell, the Meet Cute results in a meeting, which leads to falling in love, which leads to exchanging body fluids which leads to … well, suffice to say “conflict!”
Slam is not profound on these sorts of young adult topics. Hornby is an author not a philosopher. That said the strengths of his writing and his voice continue to be apparent. Sam, the story’s narrator, is of average intelligence, but full of whimsy and colorful description of his situation. His portrayal of his mother, his useless father, Alicia as their relationship grows complicated, her classically uberliberal parents, all of it is spot on and makes a breezy enjoyable read. If the book has a flaw is that it is more a side dish than a main course in terms of literary heft. It is an uncommonly good subway read though, and despite the claims of a lack of profundity, it does get Sam to an ending which is more or less exactly right. Maybe it’s not triumph, but there is hope.