Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
Everything Leads to You follows the story of Emi, a teenage girl about to graduate from high school who’s passion is film. She’s a film-buff, and because of her passion, she scored an internship a couple of years ago in the art-production department of a film. But despite her career flourishing, Emi’s real-life relationships are far from perfect. The girl she’s in love with has broken up with her six times, and she still can’t figure out what her intentions are. When Emi and her best friend find themselves in the possession of a letter written to a mystery woman by one of the biggest Western movie stars after his death, Emi is determined to find the recipient of the letter. This leads her to Ava, who is beautiful, enigmatic and unlike anyone Emi has ever met. Everything Leads to You is the story of one girl’s discovery of love and what truly matters in life.
You may know by now that I don’t usually feel strongly about contemporaries, in general, especially vanilla contemporaries. I had expected this to be a cutesy romance with maybe some other stuff in the background, but I was pleasantly surprised by how cohesive the story was. There’s a little bit of everything in this novel – we have a strong, intense focus on familial relationships. We have several wonderful friendships. All the characters feel ample, and although I’d hoped they’d be a little more fleshed-out, I didn’t think they were flat. The romance was slow-burn and nothing was given away too quickly. I’ve also never read an LGBTQ+ book without the ‘coming out’ factor, so it was new and fun to see how the focus was put on romance and life rather than sexuality.
“Because in the conversation beneath this one, what we’re really saying is I am an imperfect person. Here are my failures. Do you want me anyway?”
But perhaps my favorite part of this novel was our protagonist’s vocation. Interior design is something I really enjoy, but I’d never thought of how art and interior design play a role in film sets – which is ridiculous, come to think of it. Emi’s passion shone through the pages; there was no doubt about it that she was extremely passionate about what she was doing. You know when you read a book and the characters are obsessed with one thing or another, and you just don’t feel the connect? That wasn’t the case in Everything Leads to You. Nina LaCour does such a beautiful job connecting the readers to the protagonist and the protagonist’s passions. It was also surprising how invested I was in the film’s storyline and characters; I hadn’t expected that to happen!
But while that’s a praise, it also contributes to a con in the book. Towards the end, I felt like ‘real-life’ was wrapped up nicely without it feeling too final or too open, but I would have liked some closure with Emi’s film and Emi’s job, especially since they play such a prominent role in the story. I would have liked to see some sort of success – or even failure, just something. Perhaps this leaves room for a sequel? I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea, simply because there’s so much that can still be explored.
I also felt like a couple of the storylines were dragging. I appreciated LaCour’s inclusion of familial elements, but sometimes I thought it went overboard, mostly with Ava. I felt like I already knew her family situation enough, so the ‘climax’ didn’t feel climactic. It just felt like another brick in the wall, you know? Also, the decision to include two main characters in the story was interesting, but ultimately fell flat because I just didn’t feel as invested in Ava’s story to think of her as a protagonist. I might have liked the story more if Emi was the protagonist, and we were looking into Ava’s life from Emi’s outsider perspective, rather than equal footing in both lives. I hope this makes sense; perhaps it will make more sense when you’ve read the book.
Overall, Everything Leads to You was a pleasant surprise. And despite its problems, it was still a fast-paced, entertaining, cohesive read that will have you hooked with its characters and its addictive, welcoming writing style.