Title: Everything Leads to You
Author: Nina LaCour
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
A love letter to the craft and romance of film and fate in front of—and behind—the camera from the award-winning author of Hold Still.
A wunderkind young set designer, Emi has already started to find her way in the competitive Hollywood film world.
Emi is a film buff and a true romantic, but her real-life relationships are a mess. She has desperately gone back to the same girl too many times to mention. But then a mysterious letter from a silver screen legend leads Emi to Ava. Ava is unlike anyone Emi has ever met. She has a tumultuous, not-so-glamorous past, and lives an unconventional life. She’s enigmatic…. She’s beautiful. And she is about to expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true romance.
I haven’t read any of Nina LaCour’s books before, so I came into this book with few expectations. I don’t know if my reaction would have been different if I had had some expectations, but as is, I loved this book.
From the very beginning of this book, I began falling in love with the characters and the story and the writing and pretty much everything. It didn’t take me long to get comfortable with the story of Emi and her interesting friends and cool life. I didn’t quite know what to expect other than some really good reviews, so I was cautious – which meant I was really blown away by it!
The beginning of this story is all about going on a bit of a treasure hunt, but once that gets solved, it’s all about growing as a person (for Emi) and kind of figuring out what you want to do with your life. So, it’s not a huge, complicated plot, but it’s also a short book and the plot works really well for this book.
I loved all the characters, which is always a great thing. Emi was an intriguing protagonist, with her love of design and need to create stories out of real life, no matter how unfair that might be to real life (it makes sense if you read it – at least, it makes sense to me). Her best friend has a good-sized presence and I actually like her, which can unfortunately be a rare thing for me, but just makes this book seem even better. I wish we could have seen more of the secondary characters, like her parents and her brother and her ex-girlfriend and an elderly couple that plays a big part in their initial search, but as I’ve said, it’s a pretty short book and it’s understandable that we don’t get to see everyone.
The setting in general wasn’t too spectacular – there’s a lot of running around LA and surrounding areas, and since I’ve never been to California, it’s not an area I’m familiar with – but it was the individual settings that really set this book apart. As a set designer, Emi looks at individual rooms, like a basement set she’s working on at the beginning of the story and the living room of her brother’s-turned-her apartment that plays a big role in the later story. It was almost magical getting inside her head and seeing the ways she set things up and figured out how to make these rooms seem more real and genuine than actual rooms can seem.
The Adult Situation
As I’ve already sort of mentioned, many of the secondary characters aren’t around as much as I’d like since it is a short book, and Emi’s parents are two of those characters. Her parents are both professors at a local college – one teachers women and minority studies and the other pop culture-type classes, if I remember correctly. Since Emi and her best friend spend much of their time living in her brother’s nearby apartment while he’s out of the country since it’s the summer between high school graduation and college, we only see her parents for a few scenes, but when we do see them, I love them! They obviously care about Emi and are great parents – they’ll hang out and talk with her and her friends, but they’ll also give her any space she needs.
It was also interesting how some diversity was thrown in without putting a spotlight on it: one of Emi’s grandparents is African American and one of her parents (can’t remember which) and her brother looks biracial, while Emi looks white. It was such a small part that there wasn’t much background into her family history, but just the fact that it was in the story made me happy, since it’s a small step towards diversity.
If you didn’t already know, this is an LGBTQ book. Emi is a lesbian and has been out for her whole high school career, if I remember correctly. This isn’t a story about a lesbian coming out – this is a story about a girl who happens to like other girls and kisses them when she’s not busy with the many hobbies and passions in her life. It’s presented as normally as if the character were heterosexual, which is refreshing. And, luckily, Emi’s love interest is just as interesting as her, although her sexuality is more complicated thanks to living with a woman who’s a born-again Christian or some other religion that frowns on homosexuality. Emi also has had past relationships, including a long, on-again-off-again relationship with a co-worker, so we get to see plenty of history, which can sometimes seem rare even with straight YA protagonists.
Towards the end, I got kind of worried that the book was suddenly going to throw a curveball at me and would throw in a bunch of drama, romantic and otherwise, that it really didn’t need in order to make things more complicated and twisty (well, as twisty as you can get from a short contemporary book like this one). Luckily, though, there was none of that. There was some drama since you need something to happen toward the end of the book if you don’t want an anticlimactic ending, but it all seemed genuine. It didn’t feel like LaCour threw in some stuff just to stir the pot.
All in all, I loved this book, and I’m having a little trouble articulating just why. I definitely plan on reading anything LaCour writes in the future and want to check out some of her earlier stuff now.