Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: Sway by Kat Spears

SwaySway by Kat Spears
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On a few occasions at BEA (Book Expo of America) this past May, I was in the right place at the right time. One of those right times resulted in me being handed an advance copy of SWAY by Kat Spears.

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.

I hadn't heard of the book but the cover got my attention right away so SWAY was one of my first reads when I got home. The cover has changed since the final book was published in September, but I like them both. Here's the version from the ARC that I have:

The main character, "Sway" (AKA Jesse Alderman), makes quite an impression from the start. He's trouble, you can tell that right away, but you can't help but like him. He sells term papers and fake IDs and just about anything else his fellow high school students request. But the most interesting request comes when he's hired by one of the school's biggest jerks to help him capture the attention of Bridget, one of the most innocent and sweetest girl's in the school. It's a setup that could easily play out like other stories but thanks to the depth of the characters doesn't.

Sway's gritty, sarcastic and realistic voice matches the feel of the story, one reason this is definitely a story for the older side of YA. But in the midst of the dark and brooding there are light and hopeful moments and humor. And love.

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