Cover image for Sway
Title:
Sway
Author:
Spears, Katarina M., author.
Edition:
First edition: September 2014.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Griffin, 2014.
Physical Description:
306 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
Jesse Alderman, also known as Sway, avoids emotional connection at all costs, but he's ultimately forced to open his heart when he meets the girl of his dreams.

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?
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781250051431
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

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.


Author Notes

Kat Spears works at the Library of Virginia, where she organizes author appearances and other literary events such as the annual Virginia Literary Festival and the "Books on Broad" series. She is currently at work on her next standalone YA and lives with her husband and three freeloading children in Richmond, Virginia. Sway is her debut novel.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Spears' debut novel sets an update on Cyrano de Bergerac in a contemporary high school, and adds noir undertones. ­High-school senior Jesse Alderman, aka Sway, is the guy who brings the drugs to parties and makes things happen, connecting the nerds, jocks, and ne'er-do-wells in a web of underhanded deals with a cut for himself. He glides through school with self-assurance and swagger. But when one of his deals leads him to do-gooder Bridget, who shows a genuine interest in him, and her brother, Pete, who has cerebral palsy, Jesse gets a chance to move past his party-boy reputation. Though a sizable cast of secondary characters sometimes strains its 300 pages, Spears' novel deftly probes Jesse's complex family dynamics, including his submerged grief for the mother he lost to suicide and his frustration with his mostly absent father. Jesse's first-person narration, sometimes toeing the line of good taste, is raw and honest and marks his growth over the course of the novel. A gritty take on the male coming-of-age experience.--Barnes, Jennifer Copyright 2014 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

This engrossing debut novel recounts the exploits of high school senior Jesse Alderman, who runs a lucrative business making things happen: "brokering term papers, getting juvenile delinquents kicked out of school, and delivering party favors for keggers." A possible musical prodigy who abandoned the guitar after his mother's suicide, Jesse has more intellectual energy than he knows what to do with, and he keeps himself busy to avoid thinking. When rich football star and "all-around douche" Ken hires him as matchmaker, Jesse becomes a modern-day Cyrano de Bergerac, enamored of sweet Bridget even as he's employed to manipulate her to fall for a creep. Jesse's actions belie his affected indifference to personal relationships, as he softens toward people he ostensibly "uses": elderly Mr. Dunkelman, who Jesse pretends is his grandfather to get closer to Bridget; Digger, his weed supplier; Joey, his lesbian partner-in-crime; Bridget's disabled brother, Pete-just some of Spears's well-developed, socioeconomically, and ethnically diverse supporting characters. Sharp dialogue, edgy humor, and an unlikely hero make this page-turner a winner. Ages 14-up. Agent: Barbara Poelle, Irene Goodman Literary Agency. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-Jesse Alderman, aka Sway, can get you what you want, no matter what. Drugs, popularity, money, anything, but it comes at a cost. After his mom chased some prescription drugs with vodka and ended up dead on the bathroom floor, Jesse doesn't care about much, as long as he gets paid and people live up to their end of the bargain. But that all ends when school bully Ken Foster asks him to convince Bridget Smalley, an all-around wonderful person, to go out with Ken on a date. Jesse thinks this is just another business transaction until he meets Bridget and finds himself falling in love with her. Now, he's opening up to all kinds of people, including Bridget's younger brother, Pete, who feels alone and damaged because of his cerebral palsy, and Mr. Dunkelman, a man who lives at the nursing home where her grandmother lives. However, the more he feels for Bridget, the more he attempts to pull away from her and anyone who might care about him. And, now that the protagonist has made Ken appear like a nice guy in Bridget's eyes, she starts to pull away from Jesse, as well. From the first page, readers won't ever want to leave Jesse behind. At first glance, this novel seems like a typical Cyrano de Bergerac-type story, but it is much deeper than that, touching on topics such as parent abandonment, disabilities, bullying, and love. The main character's transformation and personality are well developed and believable, and readers will root for him along the way, even though he makes it difficult. References to drugs, alcohol, and suicide make it better suited for older teens. A engaging story that will stay with readers long past the final page.-Traci Glass, Eugene Public Library, OR (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

ONE The first time I ever heard Bridget Smalley's name, it was a day like any other. There was no reason for me to think everything was about to change. That's the way life happens, why you have to be able to see all the angles every time you make a choice. What's true today might not be true tomorrow. When the last bell of the day rang, my butt was already halfway out of my seat and I took the stairs two at a time to the first floor. A group of chattering girls banged through the stairwell door and I stepped back to let them go by me. As they passed, I was enveloped in a cloud of bubble gum and fruity body spray. Nauseating. The hallway quickly filled to capacity with students leaving their classrooms while I tried to slip through unnoticed. A blond girl in heavy makeup squealed when she saw me and held out an arm as if to put it around my neck in a hug. She looked vaguely familiar. In fact, I might have taken her on a date once, but I ducked her arm and then slid along the wall for a few steps to avoid a herd of freshmen as they spilled out of the gym. Two varsity basketball players were terrorizing a wimpy kid by playing keep-away with his backpack and blocking the corridor. The kid was obviously not destined to last long in the high school ecosystem, but there was no way I was going to engage in any misguided acts of heroism to help him out. Instead of trying to get past the basketball players, I cut through the teachers' lounge to emerge in the math and science wing just as David Cohen was passing by, talking with a short kid whose name I didn't know. "Hey, David," I said as I fell into step beside him and gestured for the short kid to get lost. "How's it going?" I asked. "It's going," he said, eyeing me suspiciously. The short kid moved away and was instantly lost in the throng of students hurrying to leave the building. David was a full head shorter than I, probably barely five-five, made to look even shorter because his shoulders were permanently slumped under the weight of his overstuffed backpack. His Jewfro was much frizzier than mine, though we had the same coloring--brown eyes, brown hair. I glanced casually at my six to make sure no one was paying attention to our conversation before saying, "Listen, I've got another job for you." "Another one?" he asked with a grimace. "I need two term papers for Bartlett's class." "Oh, come on, Jesse, I barely have time to get my own work done," David whined. "You've already got me doing labs for half the football team. How am I supposed to get two term papers done too?" "I understand it's a lot of work on short notice, David," I said, my voice automatically shifting to smooth and soothing to divert his tantrum, "which is why I'm going to pay you fifty dollars for each paper." "It's not about the money," David said with a shake of his head. "My dad is the president of the university, Jesse. Believe it or not, he makes more money than you do." "Yeah, well, for now he does," I said, though David was so busy wallowing in self-pity, he wasn't really listening. "I'm under a lot of pressure to get good grades," David continued, operating under the incorrect assumption that I gave a shit. "I've got Model UN, student government--a lot of responsibility." He crammed a hand in the pocket of his gray slacks and pushed his glasses up his nose with the index finger of his other hand. "I've got so much going on, I should be paying you to get my homework done." "I know everyone's got high expectations for you," I said as we walked. With David it was all about managing his tantrums and I needed him to be on his game, had a lot of money riding on his abilities. Not that I was so desperate for the money--I had pulled down a salary higher than any teacher at Wakefield High School last year, tax free. "Maybe there's another way I can help you," I said. "If you don't need the money, what do you need?" He barely hesitated, which told me this request had been on his mind before our conversation even started. "I want to go out with Heather Black." "Not a problem," I said, my brain already calculating the costs I would have to offset against this transaction. "Just give me a few days." "Really?" he asked, his voice rising to a squeak. "But ... didn't you used to date her? Wasn't she your girlfriend?" "Sure, yeah, we dated," I said with a nod, "but I wouldn't say she was my girlfriend. Relationships are not my thing. There's too much emotion involved." "I was ... I was kind of joking," David said. "I didn't think you could actually ... How are you going to get Heather Black to go out with me?" "Don't worry about it." We both stopped at my locker and I spun the combination lock. "You ask her out next week and she'll be willing." "Will she...? Do you think...?" His cheeks went pink and he pushed his glasses up again. "Do you think she might put out?" he asked as he leaned a shoulder against the locker beside mine, trying to look casual and failing miserably. "Your dad's rich, remember?" I said. "Which means you barely even have to be charming. But she's not a hooker, David. I can't make those kinds of guarantees. As long as you don't blow it completely, she'll probably let you get to second base." "Yeah?" he asked, the enthusiasm behind his voice enough to tell me that this deal was sealed. "What's second base?" "It depends on the girl," I said with a shrug. "Knowing Heather, it will be farther than you might get with someone else. So, two papers delivered with a week of lead time so they can change a few things, make it look more like their own work." "Yeah, okay," he said with a weary sigh. "Alderman!" A shout reverberated down the hallway. The halls were almost empty now, most everyone gone for the day, which meant I was behind schedule. "Oh, shit," David said under his breath. "It's Burke. I'm out of here, man." And just like that, he was gone. I spared a brief glance over my shoulder and there was Mr. Burke, principal of Wakefield High School--avid golfer, fly fisherman, father of three--and a major disappointment to his wife, the community, and himself. His high forehead was wrinkled in a frown, but not an angry frown--a worried, disappointed frown. Worry and disappointment defined Burke's life. His face was long and thin and his hair swept back from his forehead in a high pouf, giving the impression his head was even longer than it really was. I always wondered why his wife didn't tell him to keep his hair shorter, try to create the illusion his head wasn't so long. I suppose his wife didn't care any more about him than did the students at Wakefield High School, which was not at all. "I've been looking for you," Burke said as he stood behind me, waiting for me to acknowledge him. "Oh, yeah? The front office doesn't know where to find me during the school day? I'm pretty sure they have my class schedule." I shut my locker and turned to give him my full attention. "I--I've heard that you're a person who could help solve a problem for me," he said. I cocked an eyebrow in question. "Who told you that?" "A few people have mentioned it," he said evasively. "This is a high school. No secrets." "You're right about that," I said as I lifted my messenger bag onto my shoulder. "What is it you think I can do for you?" He hesitated for a minute, making up his mind, then rubbed his hands together as if to warm them. "There's a particular student who's causing problems for me." At first my mind leapt to the idea that he was actually having an affair with a student. There were some girls just freaky enough they would give it up to an authority figure like Burke, even if his head resembled a winter squash. "What kind of problem? If you want my help, you're going to need to be specific," I said, fighting the urge to check my watch. I was already behind schedule and now I had to think through how I was going to get David laid. The calendar was filling up quickly. "Travis Marsh," he said. "I think I know him," I said. I nodded and squinted one eye, as if searching my memory for Travis's face. "Gritty guy, blond hair?" Of course I knew who Travis was. I sold him at least a quarter ounce of pot a week. It was unclear why Travis persisted in coming to school. He never studied, barely attended class, and was probably reading at about a third-grade level. I could only assume teachers passed him just to remove the threat that they might end up with him in their classroom for another year. Travis was big, over six feet, and muscle-bound. Sometimes he liked to bully the weaker kids, but he had never given me any problem. "That's the one," Burke said, reeling me back to the present. "What about him?" I asked. "He's a threat to my authority," Burke said, his voice tight with strain. "He doesn't care how much trouble he gets in. No matter how many times he gets sent to the office, he just treats it like a joke. The other students, my staff, everyone sees me as ineffective because I can't control him. The other day, he put graffiti on my car." "How do you know it was him?" I asked. "He signed his name," Burke said, his voice heavy with defeat. "Did you call the cops?" "The police said it wasn't proof enough, that anyone could have done it and signed Travis's name. No fingerprints, no serious crime, so they aren't going to pursue it. But half the students saw it before I covered it up. Travis Marsh is threatening the very fabric of this school's discipline system. He has to be stopped." By the end of this little tirade, beads of sweat had broken out on his brow and flecks of spittle dotted his lower lip. I gave him a minute to compose himself before speaking again. "What do you think I can do about it?" I asked. "I want him gone," Burke said, though I could tell it cost him something to admit it. "Gone? Like dead?" I asked, mostly to amuse myself, but still curious to see what he would say. Burke looked stricken, his eyes wide. "No!" he cried. "I didn't mean ... Jesus, you couldn't ... I mean, you wouldn't, right?" "You couldn't afford it, even if I was offering that kind of service," I said with a dismissive wave of my hand. "So, what did you have in mind?" He still looked a little uncertain, one hairy knuckle pressed against his chin like a contemplative chimpanzee. "He's only seventeen. According to the law, he can stay in the public school system for three more years. Things will spiral out of control by winter break if he's still here. I need an excuse to expel him--an incontrovertible reason," Burke said. This last comment was weighted with the full implication of what he was asking. "It's an interesting problem," I said pensively. "Does that mean you'll do it?" he asked, then held his breath as he waited for my reply. "Maybe. You know there's a price involved?" "I assumed as much," he said as he started to reach for his back pocket. "Not that kind of price," I said. "You keep your money. Once I've solved your problem, you'll owe me a favor. Give me a week. If I need to communicate with you, it will be through an associate of mine." He opened his mouth to protest but I cut him off. "Don't worry. She's discreet. And we need her so that there can be no connection traced back between you and me." "Okay, fine," he said, and started to smile, then seemed to remember that wouldn't be appropriate. I brushed past him on my way to the door. Now I was really behind schedule. Copyright © 2014 by Kat Spears Excerpted from Sway by Kat Spears All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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