- Sway by Kat Spears
Jesse may have the flattened-out emotions of a budding sociopath, but he has the “sway” to get things done: he delivers drugs to parties, procures term papers, turns failing businesses into places to see and be seen, and finds out what guys need to know to get the girls they want, all for a price. When football hero Ken wants good girl Bridget, Jesse takes on the gig, only to find himself falling in love with Bridget and befriending her brother Pete, whose cerebral palsy has jaundiced his views. Bridget’s solid, unaffected goodness starts breaking down the walls that Jesse has built to protect himself from his mother’s mental illness and suicide and his father’s drinking, but he knows a relationship with her is impossible—first, because it’s bad business, but second, because she would never forgive him if she knew he sold her secrets to Ken. While the story has a Cyrano component to it, Jesse’s appeal as a character lies not so much in his silver tongue as in his brokenness and how he has responded to it. He oozes cool fearlessness and amoral aplomb, which is of course a cover for pain and a deep-seated moral vision that leaves him surprised by his own actions and unaware of why certain people can’t get enough of him. Perspective is handled beautifully: Bridget clearly only appears perfect because she’s focalized through Jesse, while readers get glimpses of the real Jesse through the responses of other characters, particularly Bridget, keeping him wholly sympathetic even at his most jerkish moments. Readers will thus be torn between wanting a guy like him around to make things happen and wanting to fix him so he isn’t that guy anymore, and they’ll be heartened when he ends up a little of both.