Thursday, December 17, 2009

Teen Life

British author Nick Hornby’s novel Slam (Riverhead Books) is about a boy named Sam. Written in the first-person, Sam tells the story of being raised by his single, young, divorced mother. He’s a decent student who plans on being the first person in his family to attend and graduate from college. Skateboarding is his obsession and he has a poster of Tony Hawk in his room. He talks to the poster and the poster talks back. In fact, it’s safe to say that the poster functions as his mentor, giving him direction and frequently offering advice.

Life is going along as “normal” for an average 21st century teenager, until his new girlfriend, Alicia, gets pregnant. Sam and Alicia have major decisions to make and the book does a marvelous job at revealing how a teenager navigates these challenges. How will they tell their parents? Will they keep the child? Will they stay together in a relationship? Will Sam be able to go to college? Will Alicia drop out of school? Readers are given a unique, and I would say, accurate, look into how an adolescent shaped by contemporary youth culture processes such questions.

I highly recommend this novel for any student of youth culture, especially parents and youth workers who want to better understand the world of teenagers. Hornby knows their world well and his book helps us to see life through the thoughts and actions of teens. This book should be of special interest to anyone reaching out to teens from broken homes or helping teens navigate the challenges of teen pregnancy.

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