My Rating: 5 stars
Date Read: August 9, 2014
Source: Review copy from Netgalley
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genres: Young adult, contemporary
Summary (taken from Goodreads): 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.
From the very start, Jesse presented himself as an unlikable character. His thoughts were unfiltered and often mean, and his voice was blunt and unemotional. Still, I liked him. Of course he was a jerk, but I rooted for him all the same - to become better, to see the brighter side of things, just to get what he wanted.
It was so interesting to see things through his eyes. The thing that kept me going in this book was his voice, and the fact that I was interested in the story and what he had to say. Jesse struck me as very believable and realistic, and I loved that.
His relationships with others were also great. Mr. Dunkelman, Jesse's fake grandfather, and Pete, an unlikely friend, could be just as bad as Jesse. Their interactions made me smile, even though they were less than polite towards one another. Pete was also a nice way to bring in a character with disabilities, without putting too much emphasis on this or making him out to be the poor disabled kid. I liked that Jesse didn't take pity on him, because Pete took enough pity on himself - which was also good to see. He had flaws and was treated like an actual character, same as the rest.
Bridget brought some balance to the story. In the middle of these grumpy, somewhat unlikable people, there is this nice, seemingly perfect girl. The way she cared for Pete and the other kids she worked with was so touching.
Overall, I really love this book. The more I think about it, the more I love the entire story and all the characters. It's definitely a new favorite.