In “Slammed,” Colleen Hoover crafts a painfully poetic narrative that explores the tender complexities of first love amidst life’s inevitable challenges.
The story follows eighteen-year-old Layken Cohen, whose world is upended following her father’s death, leading her to a new start in Michigan where she encounters Will Cooper, a passionate young poet with a secret that could shatter their burgeoning bond.
The story follows the life of 18-year-old Layken Cohen shortly after the death of her father.
Layken, her mother, and younger brother, Kel, move from Texas to Michigan for a fresh start. On her first day in the new home, Layken meets Will Cooper, her 21-year-old neighbor, who has a similar passion for poetry and quickly forms a deep connection with him.
Will introduces Layken to the world of slam poetry by taking her to a club where people perform their poetry. The chemistry between them is undeniable, and they find solace in each other’s company, sharing a love for poetry that helps them express their deepest feelings and cope with life’s challenges.
However, their budding relationship faces a significant obstacle when Layken starts her senior year of high school and discovers that Will is her English teacher. This revelation puts them in a difficult position due to the ethical and professional boundaries that prevent them from being together. Despite their mutual feelings, they try to suppress their relationship to avoid the consequences it could bring.
As the story unfolds, Layken deals with more unexpected hardships, including her mother’s health issues, which adds to the weight of her responsibilities and challenges her ability to cope. The novel explores themes of morality, the complexities of love, and the impact of grief and loss.
Through slam poetry, the characters find a powerful outlet for their emotions and a way to connect with others who share similar experiences.
Layken “Lake” Cohen
At eighteen, Layken “Lake” Cohen faces immense change and loss, moving to Michigan with her family following her father’s death and her mother’s cancer diagnosis.
Lake’s character journey is marked by resilience and maturity as she navigates her forbidden love for Will, her poetry teacher, alongside coping with her mother’s terminal illness and taking responsibility for her younger brother, Kel.
Lake’s evolution from anger and confusion to acceptance and forward-thinking showcases her growth, ultimately leading to a harmonious resolution with Will and a new, blended family dynamic.
Will Cooper, a 21-year-old student teacher and devoted guardian to his younger brother, Caulder, embodies sacrifice and responsibility.
Following the tragic death of his parents, Will abandons a college football scholarship to provide for Caulder, stepping into a parental role while pursuing a teaching career. His relationship with Lake adds complexity to his life, challenging his professional boundaries and personal desires.
Will’s thoughtful nature and dedication to his brother’s well-being highlight his character’s depth, culminating in a rewarding family union with Lake.
Kel Cohen, Lake’s nine-year-old brother, brings humor and vulnerability to the story, grappling with his father’s death and adjusting to a new life in Michigan. His friendship with Caulder Cooper forms a crucial connection between the Cohen and Cooper families.
Kel’s resilience and adaptability shine through the narrative, with Lake’s guardianship ensuring his stability and happiness. The merging of the Cohen and Cooper households symbolizes a new chapter of shared lives and parenting responsibilities.
Julia Cohen is a figure of strength and secrecy, dealing with her terminal cancer while striving to prepare her children for a future without her. Her initial decision to hide her illness stems from a desire to protect her family from further pain, yet her actions convey deep maternal love and wisdom.
Julia’s role evolves from protector to guide, encouraging Lake to pursue happiness with Will once ethical barriers are removed. Her legacy is one of love, resilience, and the importance of living fully in the face of adversity.
Eddie, Lake’s vibrant and loyal friend, overcomes a turbulent childhood marked by abuse and foster care, finding stability and love with her foster parent, Joel. Her friendship with Lake is unwavering, offering support and understanding despite the complexities of Lake and Will’s relationship.
Eddie’s resilience and positive outlook provide a stark contrast to the novel’s themes of loss and challenge, embodying hope and the power of chosen family.
As a devoted fan of Colleen Hoover’s works, I approached “Slammed” with a mix of anticipation and hesitation. My reservations stemmed from hearing that the novel was notably somber and perhaps not the pinnacle of Hoover’s literary achievements.
The decision to include “Slammed” in our book club’s reading list was a welcome one, as it offered a platform for discussion, whether the book met our expectations or not. To my delight, “Slammed” exceeded them.
Addressing the obvious, “Slammed” is Hoover’s debut, and the difference in polish when compared to her later novels like “Maybe Someday,” “Ugly Love,” and “Confess” is noticeable. Yet, this doesn’t detract from the book’s quality. There are moments where the narrative could benefit from deeper development, and instances where the prose feels overly simple. However, these minor issues didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the novel.
The core of my engagement with “Slammed” was the evolving relationship between Layken and Will. Their story was filled with unexpected developments that kept me hooked, reminiscent in some ways of plot lines from “Pretty Little Liars,” yet entirely captivating in its own right.
What truly stood out to me, a hallmark of Hoover’s storytelling, is the depth she brings to her narratives. “Slammed” begins with a romance, but it unfolds into something far richer, tackling themes that resonate on a deeper level. This blend of romantic intrigue and profound narrative exploration is what makes Hoover’s work so compelling to me.
I found myself eagerly turning pages, often at the expense of other responsibilities, captivated by the need to see where Layken and Will’s journey would lead. With “Point of Retreat” on the horizon, I am eager to continue their story.
In recommending “Slammed,” I also want to clarify a common misconception: the novel is not written in verse. While it incorporates slam poetry, which I found to be a brilliantly engaging and enriching aspect of the narrative, the majority of the book aligns with Hoover’s conventional writing style. This might be a relief for those hesitant about verse novels, though I personally find value in all forms of storytelling.
In conclusion, “Slammed” is a testament to Colleen Hoover’s ability to weave compelling tales that captivate and resonate with readers. It’s a book that offers more than just a romance, providing a multi-layered narrative that I enthusiastically recommend, alongside any of Hoover’s works.
1. The Power of Poetry and Expression
“Slammed” intricately explores how poetry, particularly slam poetry, serves as a vital outlet for expressing deep emotions and navigating life’s tumultuous waves. Through the passionate recitations at the slam sessions, characters reveal their innermost thoughts, fears, and desires, illustrating poetry’s ability to connect individuals at a profoundly emotional level.
This theme is central to the novel, as it not only propels the plot but also facilitates character development.
Layken’s initial skepticism towards poetry turns into admiration and reliance, showcasing her growth and the transformative impact of art on her life.
Poetry becomes a bridge between characters, allowing them to communicate in ways words alone cannot, highlighting its significance as a tool for healing, connection, and understanding.
At the heart of “Slammed” is the complex relationship between Layken and Will, which becomes fraught with ethical dilemmas once Layken discovers Will is her teacher. This theme delves into the moral complexities inherent in their situation, forcing both characters—and the reader—to grapple with the nuances of right and wrong in matters of the heart.
Their relationship, while genuine and deeply felt, crosses societal and professional boundaries, presenting a significant conflict in the narrative. Colleen Hoover skillfully uses this theme to explore the tension between personal desires and societal expectations, examining the sacrifices and decisions characters must make in pursuit of love while adhering to ethical standards.
This exploration raises questions about authority, consent, and the ethical considerations that come with relationships in positions of power imbalance.
3. Coping with Grief and Loss
The shadow of grief hangs heavily over the characters in “Slammed,” affecting their decisions, relationships, and outlook on life.
The novel opens with Layken reeling from the loss of her father, a theme that is revisited throughout the story as she and her family face further adversities. Hoover does not shy away from depicting the raw, often messy process of grieving, offering a nuanced portrayal of how individuals cope differently with loss.
This theme is pivotal in understanding the characters’ motivations and actions, as it influences their interactions and the trajectory of their lives.
The exploration of grief in “Slammed” underscores the notion that while loss is an inescapable part of life, the support of loved ones and the power of expression—through words, poetry, or art—can offer a pathway to healing and resilience.
Through this theme, the novel affirms the importance of confronting and processing grief to find strength and hope in the aftermath of loss.
Colleen Hoover weaves a compelling narrative that captures the intensity of first love and the complexities of navigating ethical boundaries.
“Slammed” is not just a love story; it’s a journey through the highs and lows of life, the importance of family, and the transformative power of art and expression. The novel resonates with readers for its emotional depth, relatable characters, and the way it addresses serious life issues with the right amount of sensitivity.