Jesse ‘Sway’ Alderman is the ultimate ‘go to’ man at Wakefield High School- he can get you anything you ask for, for a price. If you need a term paper written, a fake ID made up, alcohol or drugs supplied for a party or a date with the hottest girl in school, Jesse can usually make it happen. He even supplies services for some of the staff at his school, because information is power, and who wouldn’t want to wield that in times of need? Of course, having such a lucrative business means that there is no time for friendships and close relationships, a fact that Jesse doesn’t mind too much. As long as his acquaintances and associates keep to their roles, Jesse’s loneliness isn’t a concern- it’s all business.
That is, of course, until he is hired for a job that makes him genuinely uncomfortable. When school jock Ken Foster enlists Jesse’s help in wooing Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself with a dilemma. The girl is popular, beautiful, smart and sincerely cares about other people (especially the disabled kids she volunteers time with), whereas Ken is a bully, who thrives on his sporting popularity and his own sense of self-worth. Ken can’t understand why Bridget keeps denying him dates and offers Jesse a profitable figure to make a relationship between the two of them happen.
Jesse, who has a dubious set of morals, finds himself torn- as he learns more about Bridget, he begins to recognise a growing attraction for her, and this directly counteracts his job as an information gatherer and relationship enabler for Ken. To make his situation even more disconcerting, Jesse becomes accidental friends with Bridget’s self-pitying younger brother Pete (who has cerebral palsy), and starts to develop a tentative bond with this once-lonely boy. He even makes frequent visits to the nursing home, where he forms an unusual but mutually beneficial connection with cranky old Mr Dunkelman, all in an effort to see more of Bridget.
All of this do-gooding, however, starts to take a toll on Jesse’s business, and he starts to question his role in the world. While his services were easy to render as a non-compassionate and morally elusive guy, Bridget’s presence in his life has changed him and made him feel again, making it difficult to continue in his previous line of work. With Bridget’s help, the life-changing events he went through a year ago now seem easier to cope with, and the unapologetic life he led as a result does not seem as important to him. But what happens if Bridget learns of the deception that directed him into her life? Could she find it within herself to forgive him, and maybe even love him?
This humorous, often sarcastic and altogether believable debut novel by Kat Spears is sure to tug at the heartstrings at least once or twice. Based loosely on the Cyrano de Bergerac play (with a modern twist), this story is highly entertaining, and shows what can happen to a seemingly heartless man (or teen, in this case) once the right person comes along and changes his perspective on life.