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Thursday, August 28, 2014
Sway 
By Kat Spears

Published by St. Martin's Griffn

Release Date: September 16, 2014
Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Disclaimer: Copy received for review consideration via Goodreads Giveaway. This does affect my opinion of 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.

Review: I was a bit leery of this book when I first picked it up. Though I love the Cyrano de Bergerac tale I'm suspicious of narratives where the bad boy is transformed through the love of a "good girl". Luckily, Spears's writing was skillful enough that I bought Jesse's transformation and the reasons behind it, and found the story, its characters, and its humor extremely engaging.

One reason I enjoyed this story so much is that Jesse himself. He's a complex character: not what you'd call likable being a drug dealer who casually uses the slurs many teens use (be warned), someone who has an understanding of how people tick and uses it to his advantage, yet has an inner store of compassion hidden within his self-loathing shell. He has a very singular voice. He's not a character prone to much self-reflection, preferring to take action rather than stew in self-pity. He has had some trauma in his recent past that he needs to deal with, but there are no whiny Holden Caulfied-like soliloquies from Jesse. This endeared him to me despite his many character flaws.  He's also sincere in his acts of kindness, once he resolves to make them. Rather than stunts to win the angelic Bridget's love, they stem naturally from the relationships he has developed.

Speaking of relationships, the main reason I found Jesse's change so well-handled was that it did not revolve around Bridget. She's simply the catalyst that causes Jesse to form real relationships with other people and deepen the friendships he already had. He finally finds people who don't view him merely as a tool to get them what they want. These include a cranky elderly man, the disabled children at the center where Bridget volunteers, and Bridget's younger brother Pete, who has cerebral palsy. It may sound like a particularly wacky after-school special, but Sway never falls into the pit of being trite or overly earnest. The friendship with Pete is especially complex. Jesse goes from using Pete for information about Bridget, to enjoying the way Pete looks up to him, to having a genuine interest in him as a person. They are honest with each other, with Jesse calling out Pete's childish resentment of his sister and Pete understanding Jesse enough to criticize his fear of emotional honesty. As for Bridget, she is more than a stock love interest. Kind, if perhaps a little naive, she troubles of her own. The romance it is understated and sweet without being cloying. 

I'd recommend Sway to any fan of contemporary romance who doesn't mind a main character who's a bit more morally ambiguous than the norm, likes first person POV, dynamic characters, enjoys a sprinkling of humor with their angst, and roots for the underdog over the captain of the football team.




1 comments:

Nicole Hewitt said...

Sounds like really well-developed characters make this book a win. I have this one on my shelf, and now I'm convinced that I need to read it soon!

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Early Review: Sway by Kat Spears

Sway 
By Kat Spears

Published by St. Martin's Griffn

Release Date: September 16, 2014
Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Disclaimer: Copy received for review consideration via Goodreads Giveaway. This does affect my opinion of 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.

Review: I was a bit leery of this book when I first picked it up. Though I love the Cyrano de Bergerac tale I'm suspicious of narratives where the bad boy is transformed through the love of a "good girl". Luckily, Spears's writing was skillful enough that I bought Jesse's transformation and the reasons behind it, and found the story, its characters, and its humor extremely engaging.

One reason I enjoyed this story so much is that Jesse himself. He's a complex character: not what you'd call likable being a drug dealer who casually uses the slurs many teens use (be warned), someone who has an understanding of how people tick and uses it to his advantage, yet has an inner store of compassion hidden within his self-loathing shell. He has a very singular voice. He's not a character prone to much self-reflection, preferring to take action rather than stew in self-pity. He has had some trauma in his recent past that he needs to deal with, but there are no whiny Holden Caulfied-like soliloquies from Jesse. This endeared him to me despite his many character flaws.  He's also sincere in his acts of kindness, once he resolves to make them. Rather than stunts to win the angelic Bridget's love, they stem naturally from the relationships he has developed.

Speaking of relationships, the main reason I found Jesse's change so well-handled was that it did not revolve around Bridget. She's simply the catalyst that causes Jesse to form real relationships with other people and deepen the friendships he already had. He finally finds people who don't view him merely as a tool to get them what they want. These include a cranky elderly man, the disabled children at the center where Bridget volunteers, and Bridget's younger brother Pete, who has cerebral palsy. It may sound like a particularly wacky after-school special, but Sway never falls into the pit of being trite or overly earnest. The friendship with Pete is especially complex. Jesse goes from using Pete for information about Bridget, to enjoying the way Pete looks up to him, to having a genuine interest in him as a person. They are honest with each other, with Jesse calling out Pete's childish resentment of his sister and Pete understanding Jesse enough to criticize his fear of emotional honesty. As for Bridget, she is more than a stock love interest. Kind, if perhaps a little naive, she troubles of her own. The romance it is understated and sweet without being cloying. 

I'd recommend Sway to any fan of contemporary romance who doesn't mind a main character who's a bit more morally ambiguous than the norm, likes first person POV, dynamic characters, enjoys a sprinkling of humor with their angst, and roots for the underdog over the captain of the football team.




1 comment:

  1. Sounds like really well-developed characters make this book a win. I have this one on my shelf, and now I'm convinced that I need to read it soon!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    ReplyDelete

Thank you, comments are appreciated :)