Sway is Kat Spear’s debut novel about Jessie Alderman, a clever high school senior with a reputation around town as someone who can get things to satisfy the whims and desires of his clients. Through charm and cunning, Jessie gathers information and secrets on people as part of his strategy to persuade and manipulate others to grant his clients’ wishes.
For a fee of two hundred dollars, Jessie agrees to help Ken Foster, a clichéd brawny blockhead star quarterback, get a date with Bridget Smalley, an angelic down-to-earth beauty. Ken’s attraction to Bridget is purely based on the surface of her physical appearance, and to curry favor, Jessie needs Ken to appeal to Bridget’s kindness; she volunteers her time with special needs kids, frequently visits a senior center to see her grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s, and has an overall interest in impressionist art. In the process, Jessie falls in love with Bridget and finds his perfect soul mate as he regrets wasting such a brilliant courtship for the purpose of putting words in the undeserving Ken’s mouth to get the girl.
Sway uses a first person narrative to capture a cynical teen that feels like he’s figured out his peers and adults alike, and is written in a refreshing witty voice. The suicide of Jessie’s mother serves as a device to help Jessie seem more sympathetic to Bridget and explain some of Jessie’s resentment toward his father; however, Jessie’s reluctance to talk about it was a lost opportunity for him to become a more rounded and complex character.
Sway is a delightful and thoroughly entertaining read.