With You All the Way by Cynthia Hand

When “quiet, nerdy Ada Bloom finally has a verifiable love interest” (2), several people are surprised—including Ada. After five months, dating affable, athletic Leo Robinson, who is captain of the swim team, the two teens decide their relationship has reached the threshold of “the next step.” After Leo pops the question, Ada realizes she is not ready, and her relationship unravels from there.

Cynthia Hand spends the rest of her novel With You All the Way exploring what makes someone believe he or she is ready for sex. She also addresses various motivations for the sexual act: curiosity, revenge, being sixteen, doing something risky and exciting, the need for physical comfort, distraction, desire to feel less heart broken, and having fun with one’s body.  As one character puts it, we can “dare to dance and leave shame behind.”

Something about being sixteen years old makes Ada believe she’s ready, so she tries to talk herself into believing that fact. Although she discusses her feelings with her older sister Afton, she can’t bring herself to seek advice from her mother—an amazing thoracic surgeon referred to as the Whirlwind. With much of her life centered around her work and the desire to build a reputation, Dr. Bloom is driven. However, she realizes—hopefully not too late—that if she keeps that pace up for too long, her real life will demand her attention.

Ada can usually talk to Pop, but he, too, is immersed in his profession as a nurse at El Camino Mountain View Hospital.  Despite being her stepdad, Pop is Ada’s rock.

Afton has been a confidante, as well, but she recently experienced a break-up and is suffering with her own issues.

While the family—minus Pop—is in Hawaii for a surgeon’s convention, Ada returns to the motel and “catches” her mother in bed with another man. Yet, she doubts her eyes. “Mom can be distant sometimes, and she can be neglectful with a person’s feelings because feelings are not her forte. But I don’t’ want to admit that she could be so horribly disloyal to us all. . . That’s not Mom” (104).

Ada compares seeing that act of betrayal to “watching your house burn down, all of your childhood treasures and family heirlooms turning to ash and you just standing there helplessly watching it happen” (112). So, she vows to keep what she has seen a secret, to protect her sisters, Afton and five-year-old Abby. And she’ll be damned before she will risk losing Pop “because he mother is a selfish slut” (121).

With no one to confide in, Ada turns to her art. Similar to how others keep a journal, Ada’s sketches document the moments of her life as intimately as any diary would. She loves to draw and paint and considers sharing her work as comparable to showing people an intimate piece of her soul.

Soon, her secret keeping threatens to erupt, so she returns to the idea of having sex; this time with Nick Kelly. She convinces herself that the sexual act will allow her to feel something besides guilt. “Having sex with Nick would probably be a mistake. But maybe I want to make a . . . mind-bending, colossal, unmistakable mistake; a mistake that means I’m alive and I am a human teenage girl and I am fallible” (143).

Readers of Sarah Dessen will likely relate to Ada’s plight.

  • Posted by Donna

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