Slam by Nick Hornby

I picked up Slam in the Nashville airport the other day and read it on the flight home. I’m not much of a power reader, it took me 3 years to read Master and Commander, but I got this one done in 2 sittings.

Slam is the story of a 16 year old boy, Sam, and his self-reflection towards becoming a teen dad. When I read the jacket cover I wasn’t really that excited about the story because I thought, “eh, this is going to be Juno from the boys perspective.” In some ways it was but in big ways it wasn’t.

Sam is a guy who is really into skating and Tony Hawk. In fact, Sam read Tony’s autobiography so many times that he can have conversations with Tony and he comes up with what Tony would say based on quotes from the book. It was his Bible. This aspect provides and interesting perspective as Sam repeatedly seeks out a Tony Hawk poster for advice instead of adults in his life who could help him make better decisions.

Adding to the mix is Sam’s mom, a single mom herself who had Sam at 16. In subtle and sarcastic ways she reminds him over and again that he ruined her dreams… and she warns him over and over again not to make the same mistake. Imagine Sam’s horror when he realizes he’s repeating the cycle.

Enter Alicia, the hot girl from the private school who just broke up with her boyfriend because he was constantly pressuring her for sex. They meet at a party where they are the only two teenagers and hit it off. Oddly enough, after their first date the new couple finds themselves having sex. In fact, for the next several weeks they skip the date and just have sex. What I like about this book is that it somehow captures the story from an adolescent perspective. Hornby manages to never break character, the whole thing is from Sam’s lens, how Sam would react, and how Sam would think. Even down to the detail of Sam’s fantasy life and dreams of “whizzing forward” in the story.

The crux of the story happens when Sam and Alicia discover that they’ve somehow gotten pregnant. Sam asks, “How is it that 2 seconds of stupidity can ruin your life forever?” From there, the couple struggles with the reality of their situation. (What I’ve shared is basically a summary of the first couple chapters, still plenty of story left.)

Why should youth workers read this story? Isn’t it obvious? This is a story about real life. Teen pregnancy happens. We adults have a tendency to look at pregnancy as an adult thing and we look at it through the lenses of our adult sexuality. What we miss when we do that is that we view sex as for adults only, pregnancy as good for married people and bad for everyone else, family life as simple when it is truly complex, and we forget how much confusion and fear play into the mix.

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in Ahwahnee, California.


  1. Adam- I am a big Nick Hornby fan although sometimes British humor is over my head. On my fave list is High Fidelity which I probably liked because they took his book and reworked it for a US audience. I think his style of “angst” literature is something that many people in their 20’s connect with. I haven’t read this book yet so I”m glad to read your review. I’m going to go pick it up today.

    I like the reminder to about confusion and fear. As a pastor I sometimes forget that even though I think I have a lot figured out I need to be mindful of everyone who doesn’t but maybe even more aware that my self perception is probably wrong.

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