Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review: Sway by Kat Spears

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 with 2 comments
Title: Sway
Author: Kat Spears
Series: n/a
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Source: ARC from publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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 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.

I think that either they've updated the summary since I requested this novel or I just forgot the original synopsis because Sway was not the sweet romance I had been expecting, and a big part of that was Sway himself. Not that I'm complaining. I actually rather enjoyed how little this was like what I had been expecting. It does feature a character that, for all intents and purposes, is pretty unlikable for the majority of the book, and I always have a soft-spot for those characters for some reason.

Jesse "Sway" Alderman is cynical, unscrupulous, and completely devoid of emotion. And he doesn't like being called Sway, just so you know. But if you want something, he can get it for you...just know that you're going to owe him more than you know in the end. Sway is callous and crude and says the most offensive things to people, and he shows -- and what's worse, feels -- no remorse over it.

Jesse wasn't always the terrible person he is now, but there's a lot of hurt beneath his rough exterior. A year before we meet him, he suffered a personal tragedy, one that I think many of us would have a tough time overcoming. And at least because of that, I find it easier to forgive some of his lesser crimes. Also, even if what he says a lot of times is completely insulting and derogatory in nature, most of the time, he's being honest and just telling someone what they need to hear rather than what they'd prefer to hear. The name-calling was a bit excessive and more than a little offensive, especially when it was aimed at Bridget's brother, but if I'm being honest, Jesse's political incorrectness did nothing to dissuade me from liking his character. I'm awful...I know. But even more, I enjoyed that as much as he dished it out, Jesse took just as much disparagement from others.

The romance is not prominently featured in this book, but I felt that was for the best. Instead, I thought that the focus of the story was more on Jesse's growth as a person, even if it was only by degrees. That's not to say that I didn't feel the connection between Bridget and Jesse...the book just wasn't in-your-face about it. However, my biggest complaint about the story would probably be how neatly everything was resolved, especially considering how very undeserving of such affections and forgiveness Jesse still is at that point. I'd liked to have seen an even bigger improvement in his character before he had a shot at getting the girl.

I have a feeling this book isn't going to sit well with the majority of readers. But I found Jesse's character to be genuine and unapologetic. And the story in general felt authentic and real to me. I teetered between three and four stars for awhile before deciding on my star rating. If I scored books with half stars, I'd have left it at 3 1/2 stars and been done with it. But in keeping with the Goodreads rating system, I'm going to go ahead and round up to 4 stars because I almost DNFd the book after only 50 pages and then somehow it turned around and became this interesting, thoughtful story, and even though I wanted to punch Jesse in the face at times -- and was glad when someone else did -- I still really enjoyed his story.

GIF it to me straight:
Yep, that pretty much sums up Sway, but I'm okay with it. *shrugs* I've also always been okay with John Cusack's asshole characters, if that tells you anything. :) I dig the unconventional "hero".

About the author:

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.

Find Kat:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook


  1. This sounds interesting! Have you read How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran? It's not that she is exactly unlikable, but this book review reminded me of that book. It was excellent, by the way.

  2. This book really sounds good to me. I am ok with crap characters if there are reasons and they grow, and yes I like john cusaks characters even when they are buttheads too. I have been going back and forth on this book because I havn't been sure I would like it. I am glad you like it may have to get to it sooner than expected. Great review.


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