Date Read: 6.14.09
Book From: Personal Collection
Well. Sam is a normal teenager obsessed with skateboarding and sports crushes here and there. He gets his girlfriend pregnant, and suddenly, he has a world of responsibility and decisions to face.
Overall it was meh. Straight off I’m going to say I don’t think Hornby should be a YA writer. I felt like it was very clear he was an adult fiction author writing a YA novel. It didn’t feel effortless and simple like I think YA books should feel– it was almost as if he wrote the book as an adult novel, then went through and edited down each sentence, but in the end, you could still feel the weight of words meant for an older genre underlying the novel. That is not to say the writing is bad (*quite* the contrary), but it wasn’t quite natural.
I think the main thing I want to talk about is Tony Hawk. So Sam is well…. obsessed with skateboarding and Tony Hawk. And guess what? Tony Hawk is Sam’s imaginary friend! During about half the book, Sam talks to the Tony Hawk in his head, asking him life questions and advice for decisions, and “Tony Hawk” responds. Sam formulates these responses for himself based on what he knows of Tony Hawk from his autobiography. And I have to say, it is a rather cheesy concept and very apparently something that screamed “I AM A CHARACTERISTIC YA PLOT ELEMENT! I PROVIDE A ROLE MODEL AND SOURCE OF COMFORT FOR THE MAIN CHARACTER.” And of course, there’s the obligatory “run away from home because you feel overwhelmed and need to find yourself” chapter.
I think all my gripes stem from the fact that Sam is simply an uninteresting main character. He has no quirks, he’s a typical American teenage skater, and I am simply not sympathetic to his plight. He is boring as boring gets. And maybe that is supposed to be the appeal of Sam, that he’s Sam Everyboy, but there is definitely a way to pull that off and Hornby did not do it.
I guess I just wasn’t swept up by many elements which I’m sure others found mature and insightful– the premise of teenage pregnancy and the admittedly realistic ending. Even though I ripped it apart, it’s still a decent book, solidly constructed, though not memorable.