Running away from the future
At the beginning of Slam, Nick Hornby's first young-adult novel, 16-year-old Sam Jones says that everything in his life seemed to have come together. His divorced mother is finally happy. Sam is doing well at school, at least in his art classes. And, most importantly, he's just met a gorgeous girl named Alicia. For the first time, Sam, a dedicated skateboarder, feels like his life is going as smoothly as the tricks he performs at the local skate park. And then Sam gets hit with a dose of reality that hurts even more than a face full of concrete. Alicia, now an ex, is pregnant, and Sam's about to become a father. Faced with history repeating itself (Sam's parents had him when they were teenagers), Sam does something that seems logical at the time he runs away to the seaside and throws his cell phone into the ocean, convinced that by running away, he can keep reality at arm's length. Thanks to mystical advice from Sam's guru (in the form of a poster of professional skater Tony Hawk), as well as some magical glimpses into the future, Sam discovers that he can't run away forever. In fact, in an odd sort of way, Sam, who's never thought much about his own future, comes to embrace the certainty of having a child, the knowledge that no matter what else happens in this uncertain world, at least he'll have one relationship that stays constant the one with his son. In his popular, well-regarded novels for adults, Hornby has become known for chronicling the exploits of young (and not-so-young) men who live in a state of perpetually arrested adolescence. In Slam, Hornby explores an adolescent who is whizzed into the future and into a new maturity by a responsibility that he may not be ready for, but that he knows he has to face. There are no tidy endings here, but, as Sam says, in real life, I suppose there are lots of twists and turns to come. Narrated by Sam, whose voice is a credible mixture of confusion, anger, indecision and hopefulness, the novel will bring Hornby's writing to a new generation of readers.