Review: Slammed by Colleen Hoover

Slammed by Colleen HooverI was curious about Colleen Hoover’s Slammed after I saw Tammara Webber (whose book Easy, I very much enjoyed) raving about it and then it subsequently landed on the ebook bestseller list. However, I tend to shy away from self-published books* unless they’re by an author I’m familiar with or it’s a book that’s been recommended by a reader whose taste I trust. 

Once Atria (a Simon & Schuster imprint who’s seemingly buying every popular self-published novel) purchased Slammed and reissued it, my curiosity resurfaced. 

Slammed begins with high school senior Layken (yes, there are weird names in this book, and yes, Layken sometimes goes by “Lake”) moving from Texas to Michigan with her mother and brother, following the sudden death of her father. Naturally, she meets the 21-year old hottie across the street, Will, immediately after she pulls the moving truck into the driveway. They go out on one date—a pretty strange date—that includes homemade sandwiches, little personal information exchanged and a visit to a slam poetry event. 

We both finish our sandwiches, and I put the trash back in the bag and place it in the backseat. I try to think of something to say to break the silence, so I ask him about his family. “What are your parents like?”

He takes a deep breath and slowly exhales, almost like I’ve asked the wrong thing. “I’m not big on small talk, Lake. We can figure all that out later. Let’s make this drive interesting.” He winks at me and relaxes further into his seat.

(I actually thought Will was kidnapping Layken when I read this—thankfully, they just went to a poetry slam.)

The poetry slams like the one the pair goes to on their first date are probably the strongest element of Slammed, creating an interesting backdrop for Will and Layken’s story. Hoover does a nice job of capturing why this expressive form of spoken-word performance would so grip people, especially teens. 

“That was unbelievable,” I whisper. His hand touches the side of my face, and he brushes his lips against my forehead. I close my eyes and wonder how much more my emotions can be tested. Three days ago, I was devastated, bitter, hopeless. Today I woke up feeling happy for the first time in months. I feel vulnerable. I try to mask my emotions, but I feel like everyone knows what I’m thinking and feeling, and I don’t like it. I don’t like being an open book. I feel like I’m up on the stage, pouring my heart out to him, and it scares the hell out of me.

Despite that the two are in instant lust, they discover that there’s a Very Good Reason they can’t date. (No, Will’s not a vampire—thank goodness.) Of course, Layken—and eventually Will—has a hard time coping with the reality of that insurmountable-without-major-sacrifices-they-were-not-in-a-position-to-make-should-the-book’s-plot-be-fact-checked-against-the-real-world barrier. 

This is where Slammed really lost me.

Despite the added drama that unfolds, the circumstances that they had to overcome regarding the viability of their relationship were conquered far too easily.

[Spoiler notes which elaborate on this further are at the bottom of this post.]

The type of conflict they faced is one that’s substantially life-altering, and yet, that’s not how it played out. One of my big issues as a reader is the importance of consequences, and in this novel, the story was heavy on drama, but light on the consequences you’d imagine would result from said drama. I would have bought the intense angst over their impossible (but not really because they can avoid all the real world consequences) had the two been on more than a single date prior to the Big Reveal. If, say, they’d spent the summer developing a relationship, the pain of their separation would have been easier for me to get my head around. 

Additionally, there is a problematic moment in Slammed in which Will punches a guy, presumably because he’s forcing himself on Layken (because the weird guy is nearly always a sexual aggressor in high-drama novels like this—sigh). Now, this would be one thing if he was really protecting Layken except, this happens, 

If he thought I was allowing it to happen, then why did he pull Javi off of me? Why did he punch him? Then it hits me. Will wasn’t defending me last night. He was jealous. 

This is not okay. And, yet… Layken never questions that it’s maybe not okay for a guy to punch another dude for kissing a girl that is not dating the puncher. Furthermore, this is completely antithetical to what we’ve learned about Will thus far—this sort of behavior comes out of nowhere. I realize that this is a tried and true plot device to help the girl realize the immense depths of the guy’s love for her, but it’s tired and uncreative, and more importantly, a wholly unhealthy way to solve problems and express emotions. 

With that said, there’s an readable, entertaining quality to Slammed.

I blew through it in a single sitting, and found myself intrigued by Will and Layken’s stories. 

Hoover particularly shines in developing the relationship between Layken and her new friend Eddie, who spent much of her life as a foster child and has a very compelling story. One of the most sincerely moving moments in Slammed was the scene of Eddie’s eighteenth birthday, in which her friends and foster father make a grand gesture to help her understand that she really does have a family.

She is also a good friend to Layken, and felt the most three-dimensional of all the characters.

I fade out of the conversation as we drive toward Detroit. “Here,” Eddie whispers, laying something in my lap. A tissue. I squeeze her hand to thank her, then wipe the tears from my eyes.

Despite my reservations about the realism of the core plot of Slammed, I would recommend it to readers who enjoy novels such as Simone Elkeles Perfect Chemistry series or Katie McGarry’s Pushing the Limits. The writing isn’t as thoroughly developed (though it’s completely serviceable—at least in the Atria edition I read) as either of those authors, but it’s a similar dramatic teen romance that will hook a lot of readers. 

FNL Character Rating: N/A, but these two sure as hell needed Tami Taylor to give them some sage advice.

{Buy Slammed at Amazon | BN | Book Depo}

{Add it on Goodreads}

Disclosure: Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.

Notes: Several vendors appear to have both the Atria versions and orginal, self-published versions of Slammed; this review applies only to the Atria edition. I will be reviewing the sequel, Point of Retreat, in the coming week. 

*I have nothing against self-publishing, I just don’t know where to begin wading through all of the choices in that world.

Spoiler Notes

Hey! Only read this if you’re okay with being spoiled about the big conflict! Okay?

Are you sure?

Really, really sure?

It turns out that Will is a student teacher at Layken’s school. Obviously, this is a major problem. In Oregon, where I live, a teacher was recently fired for having a relationship with a former student. His career is ruined. In Slammed, this is resolved by Will finishing his student teaching at another school and then, instead of taking another teaching job, going back to grad school and living off his student loans. However, this is the sort of thing that could prevent a teacher from ever getting his license in the real world. The lighthearted way that Will approaches his career, given that he has responsibility for his brother was, for me, appalling.

“Lake, nothing about this has been easy. It’s a daily struggle for me to come to work, knowing this very job is what’s keeping us apart.” He turns away from the car and leans against it. “If it weren’t for Caulder, I would have quit that first day I saw you in the hallway. I could have taken the year off … waited until you graduated to go back.” He turns toward me, his voice lower than before. “Believe me, I’ve run every possible scenario through my mind. How do you think it makes me feel to know that I’m the reason you’re hurting? That I’m the reason you’re so sad?”

Furthermore, Will living off of his student loans (which includes raising his brother on said cash) is wholly nonsensical, given that in Slammed (or maybe it was the sequel) he and Layken promise Julia (Layken’s mother) that they’ll both be very careful with money and avoid debt. Given how she orchestrated so many other things in their lives, it makes no sense that they would disregard this advice. I would have been far more comfortable with the resolution of Slammed had will been forced to make a decision about his career, about whether or not Layken was worth giving up the career he’d worked his ass off for. The issue of finances, which is a big one for anyone in Will’s situation (raising his little brother), is glossed over in a way that I found absurd.

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