I’ve really grown to love Nick Hornby books over the past few years, but this wasn’t one of his best. I believe this was his first attempt at a young adult novel, and while I enjoyed it overall, it felt a little trite. It still has some of Hornby’s hilarious dialogue, and there were a couple of moments that made me laugh out loud, but those moments were spread apart quite a bit.
The story is centred around a couple of teenagers who accidentally become pregnant and choose to keep the child. Sam Jones, the male teen and viewpoint character of the story, struggles as he sees his potential life and dreams of going to college vanish before him. His mother had him at 16, and he grew up knowing how hard that was, so this was the last thing he wanted. Hornby did a good job of creating a realistic scenario in which a kid like this, who already had the perils of teenage pregnancy on his mind, could end up having this happen.
There are some elements of the story that just didn’t ring true for me. As an example, Sam idolizes Tony Hawk and continually asks a poster of him, hanging on his bedroom wall, for advice. The responses come in the form of quotes from Hawk’s autobiography, which the main character has read a hundred times. It’s a gimmick that’s slightly interesting the first time it happens but gets old pretty quick. There are also a few chapters of time travel that feel out of place. Sam flashes into the future to see how his life with child will be. Unfortunately, nothing in those scenes cause him to alter his behaviour or attitude at all. They may as well never happen. You could remove those chapters completely and the story would still play out exactly the same.
The poster, the bizarre and unneeded addition of time travel, the underdeveloped side characters, and the fact that this felt like an extended pamphlet on teen pregnancy made this one of Hornby’s weaker novels. It’s worth reading if you’re already a big fan of his, because you will find some of what you love in here, but if you’re just getting into his writing I’d stick to some of his more celebrated books for now.