Sam Jones is not the sharpest pencil in the box, and he is a little too focused on Skating. (Skateboarding, not ice-skating; but only losers say skateboarding.)
Sam is the narrator of Slam, Nick Hornby’s first attempt at Young Adult fiction, and tells quite a story.
Like most (all?) Hornby novels, this is a tale about a man trying to learn to be a man. Except that in this novel, the man is actually a scared and selfish 16-year old skater with a pregnant girlfriend.
I enjoyed the book, and it had many wonderful observations as only Nick Hornby can write them. The narrator is a wonderfully three dimensional character, as they always are. Hornby’s gift is to take a selfish and inconsiderate protagonist, and make you pity them instead of hating them.
That being said, the rest of the characters were a little too stereotyped or flat for me. The pregnant girlfriend was whiney, Sam’s father is just a little too bloke-ish, and his mates are so thin their presence is almost needless.
And I found a few plot devices jarring and unnecessary. Sam talks to his Tony Hawke poster, which offers him advice straight out of Hawke’s autobiography; and there are random flashes forward to the future where Sam gets to experience a day in his future. These both seemed out of place in the novel, and did not add anything to the storyline, except confusion.
But it is classic Nick Hornby, which means brilliant and enjoyable. I recommend it without reservation.