Cover image of WAY TO GO by Tom Ryan

Cover image of WAY TO GO by Tom Ryan

As summer vacation begins on the island of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, 17-year-old Danny feels lost, with no career aspirations and the burden of hiding that he’s gay. He’s also having trouble relating to his two best friends—brash, confident Kierce and laid-back Jay. When Danny starts working at a new restaurant as a dishwasher, he discovers a passion for cooking, becomes sous chef at the restaurant, and bonds with Lisa, a hip and sophisticated waitress from New York City with troubles of her own. Set in 1994 (when the author was himself a teenager), Ryan’s debut novel focuses on Danny’s frustrations and self-doubt (“Being gay was the last thing on earth that I wanted, but my body refused to cooperate with my brain”). Though Danny’s angst and dithering may frustrate gay teens who are comparatively more self-confident in their sexuality, those who, like Danny, feel like “an island of gayness in an ocean of straightness,” should identify with his search for a path of his own.

First novel by Tom Ryan

Published by Orca Book Publishers, 2012, $12.95
224 pages
ISBN 9781459800779


The main character, Danny, is part of a triumvirate of high school boys who have known each other since childhood. They live in a small Canadian town in Nova Scotia. The novel takes place mostly in the summer of 1994, though the historical setting is not particularly relevant to the story. It could easily take place in almost any contemporary year. The boys’ connections to each other wane over the course of the novel, during which the main character takes a summer job working as a dishwasher for a woman who grew up in the town and has recently returned, after her mother’s death. She is stereotypically lesbian, and Ryan offers clues from the introduction of the character–her loud voice, her too-firm handshake. Danny meets Lisa, a high-spirited beauty who lives in NYC, but is spending the summer with her aunt because her mother is hospitalized. The fact that the main character is gay, or trying to determine if he is, is not incidental to the story, but it’s also not integral either. Some characters are throw-aways–Danny’s little sister Alma, for example, who quotes lines from old movies in every scene in which she appears. The novel is a quick read and the plotting is interesting enough. The characters are well-drawn generally, if not overly compelling. It is a coming-out novel and it does seem realistic in its portrayal of the main character’s concerns, but the stakes are quite low. There’s no real sense of danger in any of the relationships.




Lambda Literary, September 2, 2012

The Examiner, March 8, 2013


Author’s Website: http://tomwrotethat.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tomwrotethat

Headshot of Tom Ryan

Headshot of Tom Ryan

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