Readers familiar with Nick Hornbyâ€™s High Fidelity and About a Boy will find much to appreciate in his latest novel Slam.
While in many ways Hornbyâ€™s novel, told from the point of view of a disaffected youth named Sam who often speaks in British slang, invites comparison to another tale of teenage angstâ€”J. D. Salingerâ€™s Catcher in the Ryeâ€”Slam is neither as psychologically penetrating nor ultimately bleak enough to represent the real experience of being forced to cope with the responsibility of parenting at 16 years old, its ostensible topic.
Rather, Hornbyâ€™s representation of young parenting is a romp through male teenage adolescence, pop-culture therapy in the form of a talking poster of Tony Hawk, and countless awkward teas between families that donâ€™t have much to say to each other (although when they do the fallout is frequently hilarious). Thatâ€™s not to say such a light-hearted approach isnâ€™t an enjoyable read, but as usual in Hornbyâ€™s fiction, life just ends up feeling a little too perfectly imperfect.
While Sam and his ex-girlfriend/mother of his child donâ€™t end up holding hands and walking into the sunset, they do find new, apparently better-matched partners (who can all sit down at a civil dinner together) and seem to be managing childcare division and their careers just fine. Teen parenting is a tricky, complex subject to say the least and Hornby avoids all the pain and real destructiveness of it in favor of a charming, hilarious, enjoyable read.