Review: Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
Release date: May 15th, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (Penguin)
Source: ARC from the publisher
Length: 320 pages
Rating: Diversity, the romance of movies, the magic of Los Angeles, and very generous portions of fate. And LGBT romance!
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.
Everything Leads to You is one of those rare books that perfectly matches its cover. It's an artistic, modern-with-a-vintage-aesthetic, romantic, fate-driven kind of novel. It's the story of Emi, a fresh out of high school Los Angeles teenager with a plush internship as a set designer at a movie studio, Emi's awesome best friend, Charlotte, and the letter they find in a Patsy Cline record. A letter that was written by a very famous, recently dead old movie star talking about his long-lost grandaughter. Emi, ever a romantic and always with a grand story in her head, decides to track down this granddaughter, and that leads her to beautiful, sad Ava, aspiring actress and quite possibly the girl of Emi's dreams.
Emi herself is a delight, even if it took her a little bit to fully inhabit her first person narration. She's incredibly passionate and creative. She gets easily swept away in stories and believes very much in something bigger. It's like her religion is stories and all the little visual details that comprise them. Sometimes she has a tendency to turn real life into a film, and I could totally relate to that.
This book is a love letter to Los Angeles. I know it says above in the synopsis that it's a love letter to "the craft of romance and film and fate"--which it most certainly is--but all of that is combined in the way my hometown is portrayed. Los Angeles is where I was born, where I grew up, and where I currently live, and seeing it show so fully and clearly was really cool. I cringe at the way Los Angeles is written in books as fake or flashy or image-obsessed, and obviously there are people and parts of it that are, but Los Angeles as told by Emi is so freaking cool. This book definitely highlights the funky, cool, and young parts of this city, from Venice to Silverlake back to Santa Monica. And it focuses on the artistic, creative side of this city and the film business, which is so much more than movie stars and red carpets and parties. Most of it is underpaid, over-qualified people with visions and dreams.
|City of angels, traffic, sunshine, and lots of sparkly lights. And me. I'm down there somewhere.|
Though I do want to know what sort of mystical, magical Los Angeles Emi lives in where you can get from the Garment District to Venice in twenty minutes, let alone on a weekday afternoon. Contrary to common Mel Horowitz wisdom, everywhere in LA does not take twenty minutes. Does she have her own personal freeway? Does she Apparate? These are important questions.
But in a way, that also fits in with the tone of this book. It is a bit mystical and magical in a Pinterest, Hipster, faded faux-vintage Instagram-filter sort of way. I'm not sure this book entirely takes place on earth, what with the teenager being an active part of movie production while living in a cushy apartment with her best friend. Plus, fate plays a huge part in this story.
Emi gets this feeling, while she's following the breadcrumbs to Ava and then to Ava's past, that all of this is meant to be. And as the pieces keep following into place (wayyyy too neatly, if you ask me), that feeling only grows stronger.
The fate and kismet and happenstance perhaps a little heavy-handed at times. Emi's life is extraordinarily low conflict, but again, that's a bit of the point--she does live this incredibly idealized existence, and while at first she's swept up in the romanticism of Ava's story, she does get knocked sideways by how truly sad and hard people's lives can be. The interesting thing about this book is that it breaks a lot of the rules I look for in stories, and yet I sort of loved it anyway. Like I said, there's not a lot of conflict in Emi's life, and most of this book is about her learning to see the world differently because of and through Ava. Most of it is lucky coincidences and convenient discoveries and long-lost histories suddenly resurfacing. It takes place in a city that's totally real to me, but there's this air of magic to it that makes all those unbelievable events sort of work.
For a book that's all about real life not being like to movies, it's interesting how much I saw this book like a movie. And oh, let me just fangirl forever about the behind the scene movie stuff. The REAL stuff, the grunt work like hitting up the Rose Bowl flea market at five am, having to fetch coffees, taking orders you don't want to hear, table read-through, watching dailies, and on and on. And also the greater magic of movies and the way they tells stories but also the illusion of them. It was really lovely to see how passionate Emi was and to understand the way her creativity and her art influence her everyday thoughts.
I will say that Emi seemed to have a lot of these very profound hipster thoughts. And they are gorgeous and magical, but every now and then it strained my belief. Like I said, fate and happenstance play a big part in this, and while I was willing to go with the fact that most of Ava's story is unraveled with only a few small hiccups, there was one point (Lenny, for those who've read) where I was taken out of the story a bit. But if you allow yourself to really get immersed in the tone and feel of Emi's world, then perhaps you can take those developments in stride a bit. And the way things ended with Ava's mother really helped balance some of the too-good-to-be-true developments. Like the money and the apartment (ONE DAY? SHE FOUND A PERFECT VENICE BEACH PENTHOUSE IN ONE DAY?!? AND MOVED IN THAT NIGHT????).
But then there's the DIVERSITY! YES. Seriously, I will forgive most anything for a lovely LGBTQ romance, and this was. The cool thing is that Emi's sexuality is no big deal to her or to anybody else in the story, and to be honest, that was one of the more realistic aspects to me. Because in the liberal parts of this city, like the parts connected to the film industry), really are exceedingly chill. And I loved the way you only find out like halfway through the book that Emi is part black. Emi herself is from a financially comfortable family with delightfully quirky and intelligent parents, but Ava and her friend Jamal come from very diverse and much grittier backgrounds. There was a nice variety.
Anyway, you should check out this book if you want some diversity in your life and are in the mood to feel some hope, romantic, and want to know the beauty in a perfect green embroidered sofa or shape of a copper baking tin.