- With You All the Way by Cynthia Hand
Trade ed. ISBN 9780062693198 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9780062693211 $9.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 9–12
The initial plan is for sixteen-year-old Ada to have her first sexual experience with her boyfriend, Leo, but last-minute ambivalence puts that on hold, and a subsequent [End Page 298] discovery that he’s been cheating rules out sex with him entirely. A family vacation in Hawaii (her mother’s annual attendance at a surgical conference) seems like it might be a game changer, as Ada fixes on Nick, the son of another attendee whom she’s known for years, as a way to get sex over and done with. Family strains distract her, though, as she fights with her beloved older sister and worries about the distance between her mother and stepfather. The details about Ada’s first attempts at sex, both with Leo and with Nick, are realistic, and the not-always-romantic awkward elements of such an endeavor are captured authentically. More significant is Ada’s conflict between her desire to achieve this milestone, which she in the abstract is absolutely ready for, and her realization in the moment that it isn’t what she wants, which Hand takes seriously without overworking the point. The book missteps with a belabored misunderstanding related to Ada’s parents’ marriage, but the interconnection of family dynamics and breakups and her thoughts about her own romantic relationships is effectively conveyed. The truly important people for Ada here are her younger and older sisters, serving as a reminder that sex may be significant but it’s not necessarily central; readers on either side of that particular milestone will take the point.