In a multi-store, big chain bookseller, Nick Hornby's Slam is listed under a banner titled Children's Books. It conveys the idea that the Englishman's
latest novel is for younger readers. Well, that's not entirely accurate. This is a book about younger adults, but it's not necessarily a book for children.
In Slam, this gifted and intelligent author tells the story of Sam and Alicia, two people in their mid-teens. The boy is a skateboarder and a disciple of
skating legend Tony Hawk. He often talks to Hawk's poster and cites Tony's book - Hawk - Occupation: Skateboarder - to gain insights about his life. The girl is... just a girl. They become boyfriend and girlfriend, and she becomes pregnant. And that, very briefly, is the story
- how they deal with it and how their parents deal with it and how lives are changed.
The characters here are not as defined or as complex or as engaging as the people who populate his other novels,
and the tale is so simple that there really aren't any surprises. But Hornby has a wonderful gift: his writing seems to flow effortlessly from him, and the reader is able to similarly digest his words with nary a wrinkled brow. Even the most basic of plots - boy meets girl/boy sleeps with girl/girl becomes pregnant - finds new life in his hands because, even though you may know what happens on the next page, the uncluttered and utterly unique fashion in which the words unfold draw you inexorably to the next paragraph.
This is the writer's fifth book of fiction and his weakest. But it is still better than the best works by other authors. You can read this cover to cover in two days. Though you may not bust out laughing as you did while reading
High Fidelity or About A Boy, you will emit a chuckle and guffaw here and there.