Anxious not to mar their first date with talk of his tragic past, Will instead introduces his new neighbour, Layken, to the 'Would You Rather?' game - a game typical of the quirky humour Hoover ascribes to her characters:
"...would you rather spend the rest of your life with no arms, or would you rather spend the rest of your life with arms you couldn't control?"
"...Well..." I hesitate. "I guess I would rather spend the rest of my life with arms I couldn't control?"
"What? Seriously? But you wouldn't be controlling them!" he says, flapping his arms around in the car. "They could be flailing around and you'd be constantly punching yourself in the face! Or worse, you might grab a knife and stab yourself!"
That same night, Will also introduces Layken to slam poetry, a form of competition poetry where participants read or recite their work, often as a performance of self-expression. Throughout the series, Hoover uses her original, moving and witty slam poetry to help define key characters, and convey strong emotions and pivotal moments.
'...I used to love the ocean,
Everything about her.
The way she would sing me to sleep
as I lay in my bed
then wake me with a force
That I soon came to dread.
Her fables, her lies, her misleading eyes...'
Layken and Will's shared appreciation for slam poetry strengthens their initial connection, but elation is short lived as circumstances conspire to keep them apart and family responsibilities weigh heavily. As the two struggle with their obligations and feelings, slam poetry provides a much-needed outlet. It's an expressive form that marries extraordinarily well with the wide-ranging gamut of teen sentiment and experience.
In addition to her immensely appealing main characters, Hoover gives her story considerable depth and humour with strong secondary characters in the younger brothers, Kel and Caulder, off-beat friends Eddie and Gavin, and Layken's conflicted mother, Julia.
I thoroughly enjoyed Slammed and found it a butterflyingly good read. (You'll need to read the second book in the series, Point of Retreat, for that reference!) I also enjoyed the introduction to slam poetry and her beloved Avett Brothers, who now owe to Colleen Hoover a new legion of fans, myself included.
'But I can tell by watching youHappy Valentine's Day from Cereal Readers,
That there's no chance of pushing through
The odds are so against us
You know most young love, it ends like this.'
[The Avett Brothers, I Would Be Sad]