By Kat Spears
Published September 16th, 2014
St. Martin’s Griffin
Young Adult | Contemporary
Source: received from St. Martin’s Griffin in exchange for an unbiased review (Thank You!)
About the book:
In Kat Spears’s hilarious and often poignant debut, high school senior Jesse Alderman, or “Sway,” as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop. He also specializes in getting things people want—term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs. He has few close friends and he never EVER lets emotions get in the way. For Jesse, life is simply a series of business transactions.
But when Ken Foster, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all-around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things. While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s belligerent and self-pitying younger brother who has cerebral palsy. Suddenly, Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him. Could the tin man really have a heart after all?
A Cyrano de Bergerac story with a modern twist, Sway is told from Jesse’s point of view with unapologetic truth and biting humor, his observations about the world around him untempered by empathy or compassion—until Bridget’s presence in his life forces him to confront his quiet devastation over a life-changing event a year earlier and maybe, just maybe, feel something again.
Sway is a quirky, modern spin on the whole, “will you help me get the girl?” spiel. I picked this book up solely because it’s told from Jesse’s POV (a.k.a. Sway) and I was curious to see how his thoughts and story played out with the whole, “okay, I’ll fix you up but I won’t be happy about it”. Especially since Jesse is that guy in the prison/High School who can get you anything you’d ever want or need… for a price. Talk about cynical at a young age! But oh… was Jesse fun to read! Ms. Spears really wrote a fabulous story with a gazillion of first “feelings” and clueless moments for Jesse. For a guy who was quite brilliant and street smart, he was quite heart-dumb. Or was he? Hmmmmm….
Jesse is smart in the brain, just not in the heart. He’s had his share of tragedy in his childhood and he pretty much tries to forget anything ever happened. Dad is pretty much non existent because he was never much of a dad to begin with. Jesse has been left to fend for himself. But I get the feeling that Jesse has been taking care of himself way before tragedy hit.
These days, he’s taking orders for favors and charging prices for these favors which may include return favors for himself. You could say Jesse has a few people in his back pocket. Trust me, this is a completely unrealistic premise but it sure was fun to read. It’s especially fun to read when Jesse is hired by the school’s popular jock/jerk to set him up with the sweet Bridget Smalley.
What follows is how Jesse learns to become human again and how he processes these changes in himself; whether he’s going to accept them and move forward or reject them and accept the life he’s made for himself. It’s also story of relationships and the bonds he ends up forming with the most unlikely people.
Besides Jesse, the narrator of our story, the side characters really are main characters to this story. They play such a huge role in Jesse’s story. Surprisingly, Jesse’s love interest, Bridget, doesn’t figure too prominently into the story. Oh, she’s there in spirit; she’s the catalyst for the changes Jesse goes through. But she really doesn’t have much page time in the story. The best relationships are between Jesse and Pete and Jesse and Mr. Dunkleman. Their relationships are so unlikely but so perfect at the same time. Didn’t I tell you this was a fun read?
Pacing was spot on. I didn’t find anything in the book that was completely lacking. Ms. Spears really wrote a fantastic debut novel that didn’t even feel like a debut! Bravo!
About the author: