Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sway by Kat Spears

Sway by Kat Spears
Release Date - September 16, 2014
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books/St Martin's Griffin
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  320 pages
My Rating - 3/5
**received in exchange for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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.
Jesse is a manipulator. He's got the charisma, connections, and means to get you anything you want, for a price of course. I went into Sway expecting a novel filled with character progression and a love story worthy of changing someone. While it was a decently written, sometimes cute story, I never did connect with it the way I wanted to.

There were elements of the novel that might be uncomfortable for some readers. The disabled, women, the overweight, and various other groups are ridiculed and have slurs expressed about them. It made Jesse's character worse than he needed to be, and almost irredeemable for me. I am fine if this type of thing services the plot, but this didn't really feel like it was doing that. This is a novel where the reader is supposed to see Jesse transform, and while there is growth, I just don't feel it was enough for where he starts out.

The girl who turns Jesse's life upside down and changes his very core was, surprisingly, absent from a lot of the novel. Jesse and Bridget don't share nearly as much time as I expected together. While I understood why she would capture Jesse's interest, I never felt the bond between them. This is one of those cases where the romance should have been the focus. The plot relies on you being invested in their connection, and it just didn't quite come across that way. Jesse had a much stronger connection to Bridget's brother Pete. Their story interested me much more, and pulled me into the story in a way that nothing else did.

Pete was one of the most interesting characters in the story. His anger, frustration, and pain over his disability, and the way he is treated as a result of it, was a compelling aspect of the novel. He is the only character I felt something for and it was this mixture of sympathy, and frustration. I wanted to both help him, and smack him.

The overall message of the story is the lesson that Jesse learns throughout the novel, however, the path that he takes to get there just didn't feel quite enough for me. The growth didn't quite feel genuine to me, because what starts him down that path wasn't fleshed out enough. The aftermath from the pivotal scene where everything comes crashing down felt rushed. Forgiveness is given all too easily without the contrition to back it up.

A novel that I never really connected to, it ended up leaving me with no strong feelings either way. This may be a case of me being the odd one out as I see a ton of really positive reviews for it, so do check them out. Personally, I was hoping for more of a connection, more of a love story, and just more in general.

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