I received this book for free from the Publisher via NetGalley 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 Macmillan on 2014-09-16
Genres: Love & Romance, Social Issues, Young Adult
Source: the Publisher via NetGalley
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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.
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.
To say that I was excited for this book would definitely be accurate. I first heard about it at BookCon this year and immediately added it to my TBR pile. I’m always on the lookout for new books and authors and I’m always a sucker for male POV books, so this one was right at the top of my excited for pile. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me. The voice wasn’t quite right and the book seemed a little too long, I couldn’t get behind the main character, the supporting characters were mostly forgettable, and I found almost nothing redeeming about the main character. I’m very sad about how this turned out because I had really hoped to love Sway.
My biggest problem with the book really didn’t start until after halfway through. The main character, Jesse, who’s nickname is Sway, is not a very nice person. He claims to have no feelings and distances himself from most relationships. He’s the guy who gets people stuff. Almost every relationship is built on his work. He doesn’t have friends, because he allows himself to feel nothing. We, as the readers, are suppose to be able to see that isn’t true. Of course he has feelings. Even after everything he’s been through with his family he still feels. And that’s why he distances himself and why he depends on his job. But he still has people we would call his friends, people he works with and who look out for him. Still, nothing is personal and jobs are jobs for Jesse. And he isn’t very nice. But I was willing to overlook that at the beginning of the book as we were getting to know him and understand who he was, hoping that he would change through the course of the book. I know there are times when we all get lost, especially in the light of family tragedy. But after the first half of the book when characters are suppose to start realizing who they’ve become and how they might want to change for the better, I just didn’t feel any of that from Jesse. He was determined to stay unconnected, even when he knew he was making more friends. He dragged people along, gave them hope, only to cut them down again and say horrible things to them. Over and over again. Every time I thought he had finally changed and overcome his past and would make the right choice, I was wrong. Even in the end, I didn’t feel like he had really changed. And since I didn’t feel he had changed, I can’t support the way the book ended. Because I feel certain that if the book were to continue at that point, he would just repeat the same thing again and hurt everyone again. And if I feel that way, then what’s the point of the book?
And that’s my other big problem, what was the point of this book? I don’t know. To me, it felt like it went around in circles. Sure, some things changed from the beginning. But overall, the characters all felt like they were in almost the exact same places as when the book started. So if the characters were in the same place and the setting was the same and everything else was the same, what was the point? I still don’t know. I would have thought it was to have Jesse realize he was an asshole, admit it, change, and move forward. But for me, that was never obvious enough.
I know some people have really enjoyed this book. It was an interesting look at a character who you aren’t suppose to like. And as far as male characters go, it seemed a somewhat accurate representation. Except when he spoke about his bowels. I still find it hard to believe that a high school guy would use the word bowels or think about how they’d react when he sees a pretty girl. (I know bowels can refers to depths and maybe he was being deep and stuff, but it was still weird for me.) I also think if you have different expectations than I did, it would be easier to like. This isn’t a cute romance, or even a moving coming-of-age story with a romance to go along with it. It’s just a story about a guy who’s not very nice and how he kind of ends up liking a girl. If you start out with no expectations and don’t have a problem with hating a book’s main character, I think this would be a completely different read for you than it was for me.
Overall, I was just really disappointed. While the main character Jesse did have some interesting things to say about other characters and how they treated each other, I just didn’t feel like there was enough internal analysis or enough changes in himself to really make this book good. I wanted a bigger change, a bigger realization that what he was doing with his life wasn’t enough. It isn’t enough to keep people at arms length, to distance yourself from personal relationships and deal only in contracts and jobs. He did change a little bit but I didn’t feel like he really got where I wanted him at the end. And I didn’t feel like I could forgive him, again, for the things he had said and done. And because he was the main character and this is sold as a sort of romance, I wanted to fall in love with him at the end but I really just still hated him. I can’t personally recommend this book based on my feelings for it but check out the other reviews on Goodreads if you’re interested in it. Lots of people have really enjoyed it. And if you do end up reading it, I really hope you like it more than I did.