An intriguing debut novel, described in the blurb as a Cyrano de Bergerac retelling – that does not do justice to the story or the writing that is unlike anything I have read. Spears gives us a male protagonist that is both well-spoken and horribly abrasive, his point of view and narration are often blunt, to the point and usually without the veneer of polite. Be warned that his language use and the WAY Jesse phrases his expressions are often hard to take – bouncing off his more hard-core edge to give readers the need to know what is beneath it all. For Spears has created a bad boy, that we can see as having the ability to be more than just that label, all through her deft characterization.
The relationships that Jesse is involved in: giving tough truth to those who are used to less, holding people at arm’s length all hide the crushed and hurting soul under the bravado. While Jesse’s unapologetic approach to life, and his seeming ability to remain unaffected and nonplussed by other’s reactions to or opinions about him show a core of strength that is not wholly defined by his hard shell. There is a diamond in the rough in Jesse: smart, complex, deep thinking and wholly aware of the people and the world around him, even when he seems oblivious, he just needs to learn to balance his emotions and approach.
Bridget is a solidly developed character, able to take Jesse at face value but still managing to get him to think about his approach and his own life story, her acceptance and lack of judgment show an incredibly strong personality, willing to take on the often abrasive and difficult Jesse. Unlike most YA / Teen stories, there wasn’t a huge interior monologue from her about ‘wanting to change him’, in fact her example was the most striking for his own growth, delicately developed and providing an example that works far more strongly for the story than an overt “you must change”.
Other characters are cleverly inserted and developed to give depth and realness to the setting, Pete, Joey and Mr. Carter all felt realistic and the interactions were natural and appropriate. While you start out with this story seeing Jesse as being tough on everyone, it soon comes to light that he is struggling with his own self and relationships, finding a balance that works for him without losing his own ‘self’.
Spears has created a wonderful story that is so unlike others in the genre, giving credence and credit to younger readers and their ability to manage and process complex storylines that aren’t all working within the typical YA / Teen romance tropes. While giving some lovely romance, this story is relationship and character driven: interactions, reactions and personal growth all highlight this lovely story.
Author: Kat Spears
Genre: Teen Reads
Published by: Griffin, St. Martin's Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 6 Hours: 56 minutes
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ AllRomance ♦ iTunes ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound ♦Audible
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 henever 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.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Check out the playlist for Sway on Spotify!