Slammed was my pick for a new adult romance for my 2017 romance challenge with the Unapologetic Romance Readers on Goodreads. Like many of my other selections, it appeared on many lists as a good one for its category, and it was available from the library. Like many of my other selections, I found myself skeptical upon starting it--because the heroine is still in high school. Most new adult books focus on characters who are college-aged or a little older, whether they're in college or not. However, after reading it, I agree: this is definitely new adult, not because of the age of the main character, but because of the themes it tackles.
The main character is Layken, aka Lake, who moves to Michigan with her mother and younger brother following the death of her father. She immediately finds herself attracted to the guy across the street, who takes her out on a date to a slam poetry session at a local club. It's insta-love, for sure. And then disaster strikes the next week when she goes to school and finds out he's her teacher--and he finds out she's not in college, like he thought she was. Gasp! The drama!
But beyond this "we can't be together!!!" drama there's another story. Will, the hero, has rushed through college and into teaching in order to care for his younger brother, who came into his full custody following the deaths of both his parents in a car accident. And Lake, dealing with her father's death, her family's move, and soon more lurking troubles in addition to her floundering relationship status, is being forced to grow up and act beyond her years as well. It's these aspects that make this book belong in the "new adult" category. Will and Lake lean on each other through their troubles, trying to be friends and supportive, and sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing. There are some very sweet moments in here, and Will is definitely not an alpha character--except at one particular instance, but it's not directed at Lake--which is unusual these days and rather refreshing.
And of course, the title and structure of the book itself are unusual. Slammed does not, in fact, refer to sex--gasp!--but to slam poetry, a theme I don't believe I've seen in any books before. I'm sure it has been used, but it's not common by any means. But while this is another refreshing aspect, I think it's also one of the book's weaknesses...because slam poetry, as Will points out, isn't meant to be read. It's meant to be performed. And when you're reading the book, no amount of mental picturing can really capture the performance of a real poetry slam. While this might intrigue some readers to go look up performances on platforms such as YouTube, some of the strength of the characters' experiences is necessarily lost through the switch of medium, from spoken word and live performance to words on a page, despite the lengths Hoover goes to in order to try to portray how the poems are given, with bold fonts and italics and line breaks.
Other great aspects of this book include the side characters, particularly Eddie, a foster kid who immediately sets herself up to become Lake's best friend and confidant, and Eddie's boyfriend Gavin. Even Lake and Will's younger siblings, Kel and Caulder, are good. It's hard to do child characters well and to properly integrate them into a plot so they're not just superfluous annoyances, and I think Hoover handled it well and managed to make them into meaningful characters in their own rights.
Overall, the romance here isn't super strong, but it's definitely prevalent, along with the other struggles the characters face. Is this a book that I'll go back to again and again? No, probably not. But it was well-written with good characters and a strong premise, one that I actually think Hoover handled pretty well despite some skepticism on my part about the ages involved here--Will's already becoming a contracted teacher at 21? Really? But still, I enjoyed it, and overall think it was a solid pick for this category.
4 stars out of 5.