Book Review: Everything Leads to You

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Title: Everything Leads to You
Author: Nina LaCour
Release Date: 05/15/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

You know how sometimes you read a book and as you’re reading you just can’t get over how remarkable it is that the author managed to create such an amazing, nuanced, fascinating story? Well, this is one of those books. Going into Everything Leads to You I was nervous. A child production designer? A “true romantic”? A mysterious letter from a recently deceased Hollywood legend? That sounds kind of cheesy, right? And then I started, and I liked it. And then I kept reading, and I literally could not stop smiling.

Nina LaCour did a lot of remarkable things with this book, but the most remarkable is how she created two interesting, cohesive, page-turning stories. The main story is about Emi, an almost high school graduate and an intern for a production designer at a film studio. Emi is obsessed with design and movies and is absolutely a true romantic. Emi’s girlfriend has just broken up with her (again), she’s trying to track down the perfect couch for the first room she’s designing all on her own, and she’s worried about graduating high school and starting college. Emi will be staying in LA for college, but her best friend, Charlotte, will be going to Michigan. Emi worries about missing Charlotte and also about her older brother, who she’s very close to, who’s going away for a few months to scout film locations.

Emi is an amazing character and her story is handled so beautifully. My worry about believing Emi as a production designer was completely unfounded. She is extremely talented, but it’s also obvious that she’s learning and growing professionally. When Emi’s brother leaves for Europe he leaves Emi and Charlotte in charge of his apartment and although I didn’t 100% buy that their parents would really give them that much freedom, they are 18-year-olds who grew up in LA and are both mature for their age.

Throughout the course of the book I very much enjoyed Emi’s professional trajectory, which I won’t talk about too much for fear of spoiling, and Emi’s friendship with Charlotte. Emi and Charlotte are extremely close friends and that really came through in the story and it was so nice to see. They love each other, but they expect a lot from each other and also are extremely honest with each other in the best way possible. There are so many amazing things about this book, but it’s worth reading for Emi and Charlotte’s friendship alone.

Then there’s the second part of the story that revolves around the mystery letter that Emi and Charlotte find. They both get to tag along with the production designer on the film they are working on to the home of a recently deceased John Wayne-like actor. Emi takes home a belt buckle for her brother and Charlotte takes a Patsy Cline album. When they get back to Emi’s brother’s apartment they find a letter tucked inside the album to be delivered on his death to a woman in Los Angeles. After some debate they decide to try to deliver the letter, a search that eventually leads them to Ava, a girl their age who’s had a troubled upbringing, but who Emi finds completely irresistible.

The way that Nina LaCour seamlessly and effortlessly weaves together the two stories is brilliant. Emi and Charlotte, and eventually Ava, are involved in both stories, but it never felt like two stories. There were never moments when I wished to go back to the mystery of Ava’s childhood or see more of Emi creating spaces for the film she was working on; it just all worked so well together. There were moments of coincidences and answers to problems that maybe came too easily, but there was never a moment where I didn’t believe what was happening in the story.

Another stellar part of the book was Emi’s growth over the course of the story. It was subtle, but it definitely existed. She remains a romantic throughout, but she came to appreciate how complicated and different real life is from a fairy tale or a movie. Towards the beginning of the story she tended to dream up lives for people or dream up how their lives should go. This could have been annoying and unrealistic, but given Emi’s personality and profession it really worked. Yet it was also great to see her very natural progression to picturing more realistic things for people by the end of the story.

I have one small, tiny, little complaint about the book. Going into Everything Leads to You I assumed the girl on the cover was Emi so throughout my reading I pictured her as a blonde white girl. However, through the course of the book we learn that Emi is one-quarter black, but can pass for white, although she has dark hair. It’s not a big deal, but in these days of pushing for diverse books it bothers me as a reader, and also as a very visual reader, that the cover image doesn’t match up with the story. And the blonde girl isn’t Ava because she’s described as a red-head and I suppose it could be Charlotte, but, as much as I loved her, I don’t think her character is one that warrants an exclusive spot on the cover.

Bottom Line: I absolutely loved Everything Leads to You and I cannot recommend it enough. It’s a beautiful story about a young woman who loves movies and romance growing up and also a pretty compelling mystery in the story with the story. It’s a subtle, beautiful, funny, entertaining story that I cannot recommend enough.

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