There are not enough words to express how much I loved this book. It is five stars. It is going to make you laugh and laugh and laugh and maybe cry just a little. Read my review before you commit – you can’t go in blindly to something like this, but if you pick this book up, there is a 99% chance you won’t regret it. This is old enough that you can pick up the hardback for cheap on Amazon, but it is good enough that you should download it to your e-reader and skip the wait.
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 kind of have a crush on this book. Sway is wildly inappropriate and it has a lot of drugs and shocking blasé teen talk about things that are hard to talk about, but I just saw that as honest. There is some real heart to this book, and that didn’t make the way the kids talked excusable, but it did make it feel real. The wit is biting, the protagonist is charming, and I laughed aloud enough that my completely uninterested-in-books husband finally asked me what I was reading. I think what I like about this book is that it really gave me a new perspective of a character type that I thought I had pegged. The drug dealer with a heart of gold is a strange archetype for me to fall for, but Sway absolutely did this to me. His worldview is completely different than what I would have imagined. The only other book where I really found a male narrator this interesting was in Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now (the book, not the movie). Now, many readers will probably be offended by every other page. If you don’t like irreverent books, leave this one alone, but if you have always kind of had your eye on that slick guy who seemed confident and cool without any effort at all, this is your book. I think my high school readers of both genders and adult readers of YA will find this book engaging and compelling. I certainly did.
Guess what, folks? This awesome book is in our classroom library because I have a credit card and I am a bad influence!