36 pages 1 hour read

Colleen Hoover


Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2012

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Summary and Study Guide


Slammed (2012), Colleen Hoover’s debut novel, is a romance featuring 18-year-old protagonist Layken “Lake” Cohen. Layken must navigate romantic feelings for her teacher and friend, 21-year-old Will Cooper, as well as her grief over her father’s death and mother’s terminal illness. The novel deals with grief, familial ties, artistic expression, and coming of age and was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards for Young Adult Fiction in 2012.

This guide is based on the 2012 Atria Paperbacks (Simon & Schuster, Inc.) edition of Slammed.

Content Warning: Slammed depicts a student-teacher romance (between adults). It also mentions death and child abuse and depicts a sexual assault.

Plot Summary

In Slammed, 18-year-old Layken “Lake” Cohen reluctantly moves to Ypsilanti, Michigan, from her family’s ranch in Texas, where she lived her whole life. The move from her childhood home is particularly painful because it is filled with memories of her father, who died unexpectedly six months earlier. She is accompanied by her mother, Julia, and nine-year-old brother, Kel.

Lake meets 21-year-old Will Cooper, who lives across the road from the family’s new rental in Michigan, when Kel and Will’s younger brother, Caulder, become friends. The sexual attraction between Lake and Will is clear; Will asks Lake on a date, and they go to a slam poetry event in Club N9NE in Detroit. Will recites a poem that reveals that his parents were killed in a car accident. Lake is moved by this, and they kiss.

The next week, Lake starts attending her new school for senior year. She and Will are shocked to learn that Will, or Mr. Cooper, is the teacher of Lake’s poetry elective. Will tells Lake that he cannot see her anymore; both are devastated. Kel and Caulder’s friendship continues; the families make joint arrangements for dropping off and picking up the boys from school. Lake and Will are constantly in contact due to Kel and Caulder’s play dates and care arrangements, which puts a strain on them both. They kiss in Will’s home, but Will reiterates that they cannot be together. Lake is angry with his inconsistency and delivers a scathing poem in Will’s poetry class, communicating her veiled anger.

Lake becomes friends with classmate Eddie. Eddie, who was raised by an abusive mother and then foster families, proves to be a reliable and stable friend. She recites a poem at Club N9NE about her mother’s abuse and is celebrated for her emotional and vulnerable poem.

Lake, who suspects her mother is hiding a new relationship, is shocked to discover that her mother is dying of terminal lung cancer. She goes to Will’s house in distress, who carries her to his bed and holds her. She stays the night. Eddie comes over the next morning, and Will is shocked to learn that Eddie knows about his and Lake’s complicated relationship. He calls the girls into detention the next day, concerned he will lose his job if Eddie reveals that Lake slept at his house.

Lake insists to her mother that she wants to be Kel’s sole guardian, rather than have Kel live with a family friend. Julia eventually relents and prepares Lake to manage the family’s finances. Lake comes to peace with her and Will’s inability to be together, as well as her father’s death and mother’s illness.

At Club N9NE, Will recites a poem that Lake realizes voices his love for her. Overwhelmed, she leaves the club. She is then assaulted by a classmate, Javi, who forcibly kisses her in the parking lot of the club. Will appears and punches Javi. The school and Will decide it would be best for Will to complete his student teacher training elsewhere, given the incident. Despite this, Will insists that he and Lake should not be together.

Lake learns from her mother that Will decided to stay away for fear of distracting Lake from her last months with Julia. Julia encourages Lake to profess her true feelings for Will. Following her mother’s advice, Lake travels to Club N9NE, where Will is a judge for a competition, and recites a poem about her new life and her love for Will. Will recites a response poem in which he communicates his reciprocal love for Lake. They kiss.

The Epilogue reveals the Cohens and the Coopers celebrating Christmas together the next year. Julia has died, and Lake and Will are in a loving relationship. Lake continues to manage her grief, but her relationship with Will, as well as the presence of Kel, helps her continue to find joy in her life.

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