Orca Book Publishers
Discovering who you are is a common theme of YA books (sadly as well as of adult fiction and even non-fiction.) In that sense, Way to Go could be seen as a coming-of-age novel in which Danny, 17, searches for his niche amongst his friends, Jay and Kierce, and for his future, in Cape Breton or not. But trying to identify your sexual orientation can be awkward when you have a friend like Kierce who has hundreds of rules about getting the girl. It’s especially problematic if you’re unsure whether you want to get the girl or be with a guy instead. Still thinking about what he wants and who he is has Danny feeling pressured by his Dad who is adamant that Danny go to university. Working in the Alberta oil fields after the bottling plant closed in Deep Cove, Dad is determined that Danny's employment options will not be limited as his own were.
So starts the summer of 1984, the summer before Danny’s final year in high school. Resolved that he will not waste it, his mother arranges for him to work for a former classmate, Denise, who has returned to Deep Cove to convert the popular but rundown Burger Shack into an upscale restaurant named The Sandbar.
Focused on his job at helping The Sandbar get up and running, Dan puts aside his worries and finds himself enjoying the camaraderie of his new acquaintances: Denise, who left Deep Cove right after high school; JP, the amazing chef from Montreal; Lisa Walsh who has come from New York City to spend the summer with her aunt; and classmate Maisie who is hired when more wait staff is needed.
Meanwhile, with the Sandbar successfully up and running, Dan's skills as a dishwasher are being severely challenged. Fortunately Denise and JP are very astute, recognizing Dan's fascination with watching JP cook could better suit him for the role of sous chef. Here Danny finds his forté, prepping for JP and learning about cooking from a master, and considering a culinary institute after high school.
For Dan and Lisa, as well as The Sandbar, Dan's Dad, Jay and Kierce, the Way to Go seems to be forward. Taking the first step is the difficult one but it's the only Way to Go. Whether it is sharing hidden truths or the anticipation of decision-making or worries about the unknown, the characters of Way to Go only find growth and learning (as well as relief) by going forward. Tom Ryan easily finds the voices of the teens, male and female, gay and straight, as well as the adults with whom they interact, as if he has been all those people and speaks from experience. It's by taking bits and pieces from all of them that Danny comes to recognize that he needn't worry so much about who he would become but just be who he is now. Life isn't a static enterprise that needs to be prodded to happen. Even deciding to remain in Deep Cove would never ensure any constancy, just a permanent locale. By choosing to take those first steps, Dan has chosen the direction of his progress and fortunately it is forward.