I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Sway by Kat Spears
Published by Brilliance Audio, St. Martin's Griffin on September 16, 2014
Genres: Comedy, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
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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.\r\n\r\nBut 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?\r\n\r\nA 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.
Wonderful story where the characters embrace imperfections, although the story isn’t without its own. I’m not going to spend time describing the setting (it’s contemporary) or the plot (you can get that from the synopsis). Instead I’m going to dive right in to my likes and dislikes (but not in that order).
Things I Didn’t Like
I didn’t like Joey’s character. She was whiney, co-dependent and just a little too smartass for my tastes (which shouldn’t bother me, because I’m a huge smartass). Beyond that, I felt that she was the kind of transient character who only made appearances to move the plot from point A to point B before disappearing again. She didn’t often make appearances, and I simply didn’t connect with her character. The tragedy involving Jesse’s mother didn’t jive in terms of timeline. I got the feeling that Jesse became this Sway character in part because of his mother’s death, which was only a year earlier. Having lost a parent at a young age myself, I don’t find a year long enough to go through the grieving processes and completely manufacture yourself as a new you. I know everyone grieves differently, but the believability of this and the power he has been able to garner over others in such a short time is low.
Things I Liked
The relationships within the story are incredibly well done. It’s established early on that Jesse is a Humpty Dumpty being held together by his disdain of connections with others (which saves him from being hurt again). But the magic in this story is not with Jesse, per se; it’s in the supporting characters who give you an idea of who Jesse really is, based on their interactions with and perceptions of him. It shows that someone can learn to love despite the saddest circumstances, and that people are capable of cracking through your walls no matter how hard you try to keep them out. Jesse’s and Bridget’s relationship, with all its hits and misses, is imperfect. Which makes it perfect. Jesse never expected to fall in love with anyone and she was simply another job. It’s not the best beginning, and the after is messy and complicated, because hearts are messy and complicated. I really loved how Bridget inadvertently makes Jesse a better person simply by being inspiring. Some people want to change you; others don’t even have to try. I loved the friendships derived from Sway, but specifically with Bridget’s little brother, Pete, who has cerebral palsy and is sardonic, angry at the world and looking for someone to see him as Pete, and not “perfect Bridget’s imperfect brother with CP”. Jesse sees him as a person, not a disability, and he doesn’t cut Pete the slack he’s used to receiving because of his circumstances. Their friendship felt genuine and that’s what I really liked about Sway.
Sway is a diverse book, without even trying to be. I initially rated it two-stars but the more I think about it, the deeper it gets for me.
I did not like Nick Podehl as a narrator. He did the main character voice very well, and he flowed nicely with the pace of the story. But his female voices were like nails on chalkboard for me. I didn’t think they sounded feminine at all; they sounded like drag queens. Which is a very Sway thing to say. All of his older male characters sounded like Old World italian mafia types out of NYC or Jersey, like that’s the default for older people. He’s not a narrator I would personally seek out again.
I think most mature YA audiences will enjoy this story! So I’m giving away my CD audio copy to the winner of this giveaway!
- You need to be 13 or older to enter
- You need to have a US or Canada mailing address
- Winner has 48 hours from email send to respond with mailing address