St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Letter to the editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

Growing, not grown up in 'Slam'

Nick Hornby's debut teen novel revisits a familiar theme: the male and how he matures.

By Jennifer DeCamp, Times Staff Writer
Published December 16, 2007


By Nick Hornby
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $19.98, 304 pages

- - -

Nick Hornby's novels have centered on child-men behaving poorly - a man yet to grow up (About a Boy), a man suffering relationship woes (High Fidelity), men pondering suicide (A Long Way Down).

Then there's Sam, Hornby's heartfelt, straight-talking narrator in Slam, the British author's first foray into teenage fiction.

Sam's a 16-year-old newly single skater (which for nonskaters - i.e., adults - means skateboarder, never, ever, figure skater). Like the outspoken man-child Marcus in About a Boy, Sam has his own adult views:

- On teen sex: "You hear about boys who refuse to wear condoms, and you hear about girls who think it's cool to have a baby at fifteen. . . .Well, those aren't mistakes. That's just stupidity."

- On teen pregnancy: ". . . They acted like a baby was an iPod or a new mobile . . . There are many differences between a baby and aniPod. And one of the biggest differences is, no one's going to mug you for your baby."

Despite Sam's mature outlook, he falls prey to the same mistake he derides others for. Fatherhood and adulthood loom. But because Sam is, well, Sam, he turns to skateboarding legend Tony Hawk for advice. And as any devoted Hornby reader might expect, Hawk - in the form of a poster on Sam's bedroom wall - talks back.

Much could have gone horribly wrong with Hornby's first attempt at a YA novel. But he specializes in immature men growing into their adult bodies, so it seems poetic that Sam's a slightly more mature teen being forced into adulthood by the coming birth of his child.

But Sam's journey to adulthood isn't swift or easy, and the transition highlights Hornby's storytelling. As Sam questions his future - giving up skating, getting money for child care, changing diapers - Hornby teaches teens through candid humor what it means to be held accountable without seeming like a preacher in need of a pulpit.

Jennifer DeCamp can be reached at (727) 893-8881 or


[Last modified December 14, 2007, 18:20:00]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters