Summary: Seventeen year-old Danny is launched into the summer of 1994 with a new job and a secret that’s becoming increasingly more difficult to hide. Unsure of what he wants to do after senior year, what Danny does know is that he wants to get as far away as possible from the small town mentality of Deep Cove, Cape Breton Island. His summer job at The Sandbar opens up new possibilities and creates new friendships, but it is ultimately Danny who must decide what to do with his life and who is safe to share his secret with.
Number of Pages: 214
Age Range: 15-17
Review: With a cast of authentic characters, Tom Ryan explores the topic of coming out in a small town through his first novel, Way to Go.
There are several aspects of this book that I appreciate. The first is that it is a positive teen book about being gay that doesn’t end up in depression, suicide or a hate crime. Instead, Ryan offers hope and support for Danny, even in the midst of a friend’s homophobic behaviour. Denise, the owner of The Sandbar, is also gay and becomes sort of a mentor for Danny, even though she doesn’t realise she is.
The second is the 90s aspect. Nostalgia at its best, Way to Go‘s 1994 setting manages to stay relevant and relatable for today’s teens while also adding another layer for adult readers. Saying goodbye to a friend with the gift of a mix tape? Classic.
The third is Ryan’s style of writing. I have described his characters as authentic because Way to Go has a realistic feel to it. The conversations between Jay, Kierce and Danny, the scene where Danny freaks out when Lisa says she thinks he is gay, Kierce’s pushing Danny into getting a girlfriend – they all ring true. Ryan has truly tapped into his inner teen to create this book.
Way to Go speaks not only directly to teens coming to terms with being gay, but also to anyone who feels like an outsider. I found in Danny an earnest and insightful character struggling to accept who he is, even though it makes him different than everyone else he knows. And in the end I was happy that he had found some peace in himself and his surroundings.
My favourite character (and part of the book) though has to be Alma, Danny’s precocious little sister. I loved her timely movie quotes and her plucky spirit. Even without the other characters and the depth of the book, Way to Go would be worth reading for Alma alone.
“If I’d had rules of my own, they would have been more along the lines of, Don’t rock the boat, or, Keep your cards close to your chest. My Golden Rule would have probably been, When in doubt, get scared and clam up. As for Jay, he wasn’t really a ‘rules’ kind of guy. Unless No worries counts as a rule.” – Danny from Way to Go by Tom Ryan, page 2
“‘Well, Michelle thinks I’m queer. And so does Kierce, apparently!’ I turned to him. ‘Do you?’
I wanted him to tell me that he didn’t care either way. That being gay was no big deal.” – Danny from Way to Go by Tom Ryan, page 27
“After I hung up, I lay on my bed and stared at the wall. I’d been listening to people shoot their mouths off about fags and queers and fruits since we were kids. That kind of stupid jock talk was as normal as someone asking you to pass the salt. But this was different. This was personal.” – Danny from Way to Go by Tom Ryan, page 35
“Porn was so stupid. Why the hell would a naked girl on a bicycle need a fur hat?” – Danny from Way to Go by Tom Ryan, page 75
“I knew that in other parts of the world, being gay wasn’t such a big deal. There were gay bars, gay businesses, even whole gay neighbourhoods. There were gay doctors and gay lawyers and gay actors and gay musicians. In big cities like New York and Toronto and San Francisco, there were gay pride parades, full of gay people covered with gay glitter and gay feathers dancing to gay music. Those people looked happy, like they could afford to have fun and be themselves.
But none of that mattered, because none of those people lived in Deep Cove.” – Danny from Way to Go by Tom Ryan, page 89
“I stared at her with no idea what to say. My brain scrambled, trying to find the right words. She made it sound so normal, like being gay was just an everyday thing. I felt my heart drop into my stomach, and I had a powerful urge to tell her everything. My brain immediately fought against it, screaming, No! Tell her she’s wrong! Nobody can know! My brain won.” – Danny from Way to Go by Tom Ryan, pages 112-113
“‘If you know how to cook, you will never go hungry,’ JP said, ‘and you will always have work, wherever you go. The world needs chefs like it needs carpenters. Governments might collapse, and aliens might invade, but people will always want to eat good food.'” – JP from Way to Go by Tom Ryan, page 118
“Cooking created endless possibilities. I began to realize that you could travel the world without leaving your kitchen.” – Danny from Way to Go by Tom Ryan, page 121
“‘There are a lot of ignorant people in the world, but if you can learn to ignore them, then all kinds of other fantastic people start popping up in your life. And some people just end up surprising you. I wish I’d givien my folks the chance to know the real me. Instead, I was so scared that I shut everyone out and ran away. That’s no way to go through life.'” – Denise from Way to Go by Tom Ryan, page 154
“Thick clusters of clouds drifted lazily across the moon, and the tide kept up a steady rushing pulse. Sitting there with the sea air wafting up into my nose, I wondered how I would ever leave this place. For a few moments, it was hard to imagine anywhere more perfect on Earth.” – Danny from Way to Go by Tom Ryan, page 185
“I had all the time in the world to be somebody different, somewhere else. For now, the way I saw it, I was right where I was supposed to be.” – Danny from Way to Go by Tom Ryan, page 214