Review: Sway by Kat Spears

Posted September 13, 2014 by valeranne in Reviews / 2 Comments

Review: Sway by Kat Spears


by Kat Spears
Published on September 16th, 2014
by Macmillan
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

Also by this author: Sway

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.

4 Stars

Boy Meets Girl.

Boy Charms Girl….

For Someone Else.

Sold! That tagline alone was the reason that I read Sway; I knew nothing else about this book but I don’t regret it at all, I ended up loving it.

Since I knew essentially nothing of this book, I was shocked to find that it was told through a first person male voice. I don’t often read strictly male POVs, I do read dual POVs with one being male but I am not used to being in a man’s head for the entire duration of a novel. I mention this because it should be noted before you start this book, since it’s a male POV, it’s different…

One word to describe Jesse: crass. His mind is constantly in the gutter and he says whatever he wants to whomever he wants. It was off-putting a lot at the beginning but it thankfully didn’t drive me away. Once you sludge through that murky territory, the book is wonderful!

Jesse, also referred to as Sway though he hates that nickname, is the guy you go to when you need something; whether it be papers, drugs, or dates, Jesse is the man for the job. I actually had a friend exactly like him in high school (to a much less drastic level), his name was Kevin and he sold snacks and drinks for cheaper than the machines and he made bank. Jesse trades in secrets and favors (as well as money) and it allows him free reign. The thing I enjoyed most about Jesse is his ability to read people, he knows what to say to each person to get what he wants. As much as he doesn’t want to admit it, Jesse is a deep and complex person; his story is intriguing because he claims not to care about anyone but some stubborn people decide to care about him which forces his opinions to change.

“Caring about other people only brings you misery, it’s one of the laws of the universe.”

Enter Bridget, the girl who Jesse is hired to get to know for Ken, the football superstar. Bridget is a great character and better yet, she is the complete opposite of Jesse; she volunteers her time with special needs children, visits her mentally ill grandmother every week, and she genuinely adores every person that she meets.

You know what that means? We’ve got a little A Walk to Remember type romance going on here, the good girl and the bad guy.

I loved seeing how Jesse tried to make sense of Bridget, she went against everything he believed about people and the world around him. Jesse believed that people were fundamentally selfish until he met Bridget; as much as he tried to fit her into his views of the world, she just refused to fit. She seemed to be the exception to the rule and already, she was under his skin, peeling back the layers that guarded his true self from others.

“People think nothing about lying, cheating, and stealing – as long as they see it as something they want or need, they’re just always willing to justify it”

Before I get gushy about the ship, I’ll talk about my favorite character! The Fake Grandfather. Jesse found out that Bridget visited her grandmother once a week so he bribed a resident there to pretend to be his grandfather. It is hilariously fantastic. This old man is AMAZING! He puts Jesse in his place all the time and it’s exactly what Jesse needs. I loved him for his comic relief but he was so much more; Jesse doesn’t have much of an adult authority figure in his life and this man started to fill that role for him. A true companionship started that transcended a fake grandfather/grandson relationship, a real friendship was formed.

Pete also needs to be acknowledged, he is Bridget’s younger brother who has CP. He just starts following Jesse around one day and a wonderful friendship is born! He was a fun character, great for Jesse’s growth.

Jesse is changing throughout the entire book, most of it can be attributing to the people that he is letting in but there is also a lot of personal growth. I enjoyed the fact that Kat never made a big deal of his changes, he would slowly change without ever being pointed out. It made the story feel authentic.

Things I didn’t like: the believability of Jesse’s business was barely there for me; in the first few chapters, the school principle asks for his services…. Yeah, I don’t buy that. Also, he had connections in absolutely every capacity, it was just a little too much for me. There was also an incidence where Jesse directly addressed the reader which is something I’m very against as a reader, it takes me out of the story completely. Last thing, this book STRESSED me out! I loved the parts with the main characters but any other times, I was STRESSING out.

A common message throughout the book was that looks aren’t everything, preach; these teenagers were incredibly self-aware but I enjoyed it.

Now to the good stuff. I. LOVED. THIS. SHIP. Oh my, the passion was electrifying when they were in the same room, let alone in close proximity. There was a slow build and it was perfect. Oh man, this ship was AMAZING. It was funny to see his feelings emerge against his wishes, he viewed them as traitorous which was hilarious! He was constantly having an internal battle and I would have read 400 pages of it, it was amazing. They are just perfect for each other in the most imperfect way. They challenged each other in the most unique ways and they had an understanding of one another that was phenomenal to read about. Jesse had never truly let someone in because no one was ever persistent enough to care; I’m getting teary over here. It was honestly just beautiful and somehow pure; it started out innocent and it just grew into one of my favorite ships ever.

Fundamentally, what drew them to one another was that accepted each other for who they were, they didn’t try to label each other or squeeze the other into a box, they just were.

“Sometimes what we want to be and what the world expects from us are two different things.”


About Kat Spears

I am a novelist, bartender, mother of three freeloading kids, non-profit management guru, and, apparently, the only person on the planet who reads in the shower. I am not a role model. My debut YA novel, SWAY, will be released in September 2014 by St. Martin’s Press. Follow playlists for all my characters and the soundtracks to my books on Spotify under katbooks. Some of my characters have better taste in music than others, but if you like the character, chances are you will like their playlist.

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2 responses to “Review: Sway by Kat Spears

  1. Liza

    Great review Valerie! I can appreciate your enthusiasm and your love for the book is well explained. I think this is a book that I would love to read 🙂

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