Monday, September 29, 2014

Book Review: Sway by Kat Spears

Author:  Kat Spears
Publisher:  St. Martins Griffin
Publication Date:  September 16, 2014

From Goodreads:
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 EVERlets 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.

Fresh, edgy, and unconventional, this novel tells the story of Jesse, a deeply unhappy, manipulative, and cynical high school senior who makes his money by giving people want they want.  That may be drugs, alcohol, a date, research papers for school, etc.  Jesse basically makes things happen.  He's brutally honest and unapologetic about it, which was refreshing, but at the same time, it made it hard to like him.  He just didn't care.  About anything.  Then Ken pays him $200 to get Bridget to date him, and Jesse starts getting to know Bridget and can't believe that such a genuinely nice and caring person exists (of course, it doesn't hurt that she's gorgeous).  Slowly Jesse starts to care again and starts helping people for different reasons than money.

Sway was really good.  I was expecting a romantic comedy, but instead it's rather dark.  

"I was a monster.  The kind of monster who punched a kid with cerebral palsy, who sold a sweet girl like Bridget to the highest bidder, who didn't have to care about how other people felt, because I didn't have any feelings of my own.  the kind of monster who doesn't survive to see the end of the fairy tale."

Some of Jesse's observations are humorous, but this book is not light and fluffy, that's for sure.  And there's a lot of drug and alcohol use, sex, and language, so just be prepared for that.  Jesse was so savvy and world-weary, I'm not sure how realistic his character is, but his inner monologue was different so I did appreciate it. Clever and original, this is an impressive debut.

Posted by:  Pam


  1. This sounds like something I would like. I'm adding it to my TBR. Another great review! :)

  2. Interesting, so I have been very unsure about picking this one up since contemporaries are usually more Nicole's thing than mine. I think after reading your review, I might leave this one for her :) Not might type of book! Great review :)

    Ashley @ The Quiet Concert

  3. Piggybacking off of Ashley's comment, I am feeling conflicted about this one. I like Male POV and this sounds like my kind of book but Jesse seems SO unlikable that I don't know if I will be able to overcome it. I feel like I may have a similar reading experience to Falling Into Place which ended up being just good for me because I didn't like Liz. At all. I am going to keep this one on my Considering shelf for now I think.

  4. Great review. This is yet another book I haven't heard about. I am glad I came across your review though because I really like the sound of it. This will definitely be something that I will be making an effort to read in the future. I like the sound of Jesse's POV and I don't read enough YA books with male POVs.