Slam, By Nick Hornby

Reviewed,Laurence Phelan
Sunday 27 April 2008 00:00
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Nick Hornby's first novel aimed at adolescents is narrated by a 15-year-old everyboy, Sam, who worships the skate-boarder Tony Hawks; the book's title is the word, in skating parlance, for a spectacular tumble. In Sam's case, it is also a metaphor for the spectacular mistake he has made in getting his ex-girlfriend pregnant.

Hornby's talent for conversational prose serves him well: Sam's "you know what I mean"s sound authentic, as does the fact that he tells things out of sequential order, and will begin an analogy only to realise it doesn't really work. It takes a rare skill to make such theoretically inept prose so eminently readable. But the authenticity of Sam's voice only partly disguises the fact that he isn't a terribly convincing character, and the others in the book even less so. His inability to make informed choices or affect the outcome of his own life is part of the point Hornby is making – but it doesn't help that none of the other characters behave rationally either.

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