Title: Everything Leads to You
Author: Nina LaCour
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: May 2014, Dutton Juvenile
Main Characters: Emi, Charlotte, Ava
Synopsis: Emi, a Los Angeles native, has just graduated high school. Thanks to her older brother, Toby, she’s got an awesome job: she’s interning at a movie studio. She’s in charge of designing a set! Just for one scene, which is a tall order for an intern, but Emi is very, very good. The job isn’t without its perils, though; she’s working with her love interest, Morgan, who has just dumped Emi… for the sixth time. In her attempts to avoid Morgan, Emi avoids the studio. She’s looking for furniture for her set design anyway. However, she finds something at an estate sale that will completely change her life– and a few others’ along with it.
- Later, though, once she’s lying under the boy’s weight, and there are close-ups of their hands or feet or faces, people will see the thread and the leaves. I can picture the girl’s hair spilling over the side, blending with the gold, like she’s tangled up in a forest. There’s something fairy-tale-like about it, which is perfect, because fairytales are all about innocence and ill will and the inevitability of terrible things. They’re all about the moment when the girl is no longer who she once was…
- “… I’m sure that Tracey loved me and couldn’t imagine losing me, too. But that doesn’t mean she really wanted to be a parent. Or that she was ready to be one.”
- This conversation isn’t that different from the five others we had before getting back together. But it feels different, because wanting someone is not the same as loving her, and now I understand that Morgan does not love me. When you love someone, you are sure. You don’t need time to decide. You don’t say stop and start over and over, like you’re playing some kind of sport. You know the immensity of what you have and you protect it.
- … I am thinking about the set I would create if this were a movie about me. If I were trying to show people how it once felt to be with Morgan I would show the shimmering blue water of the pool at her apartment, and the line she rigged on her back deck because her unit has a washing machine but no room for a dryer. All those tank tops and pairs of bright underwear in the sun. It would be a soft nostalgia, a faded romance.
Review: I love falling in love with characters. I love falling in love with the way a book makes me feel. I loved falling in love with this book, maybe more so than I even like falling in actual love.
This is a beautiful, beautiful story. At its heart it’s a love story, of course. But Nina LaCour crafts the book so beautifully, I can’t help but compare her to Emi and her careful eye as she constructs a set. Every little detail matters, whether it’s the way a picture frame tilts just off kilter, or the way the light hits Ava’s hair. Obviously Emi and Nina are of the same brain… but it’s different, somehow, this time. I could get lost in the way things are described. I picked out a few of my favorites and posted them above. The way she describes the couch, for instance. I mean, it’s a couch! But the couch is Emi’s job: she finds the beauty in the details, she knows how important the subtleties are, and all of that comes across in the writing. You and I, we look at a couch and think, wow, that looks comfy. (Or… maybe not, depending on the couch!) But Emi looks at a couch and sees how it needs to connect with the story. The golden thread, the character’s golden hair. A fairytale forest, full of ominous danger, because that is where the character is headed in the story.
I loved the emotion weaved into the story, too. There’s a particularly poignant moment in the story after Ava confronts her adoptive mother, Tracey.
Without warning, Ava pulls onto the side of the road. She pulls up the emergency brake and leans into Jamal, buries her face in his shoulder, her body quaking. She trembles and trembles and when she finally cries it doesn’t even sound like crying. Nothing like that night in our living room with Clyde Jones on the screen looking out at her. Not like a few minutes ago, on Tracey’s front lawn. Not even close to that. It’s this gasping that makes Charlotte and me lock hands, makes me have to struggle against crying myself. It isn’t my tragedy. It isn’t me who knows for certain in this moment that I’m alone in the world. She has us, I know, but for all people talk about friends as being the same as family, I know that, really, they aren’t. At least not when you’re eighteen. Not when sometimes you need your mother.
I can completely identify with that feeling. Last year, I moved to a completely new place by myself. I didn’t know a soul, and my workplace was not conducive to making friendships. I didn’t know anything about the city I was in, and going out was always a pain in the ass because of traffic, so I pretty much always stayed home. It got to a point where my anxieties had completely overwhelmed me and I was becoming a bit of a hypochondriac and I was crying multiple times a day and… I just really needed a hug from my mother. But she wasn’t there. She was three thousand miles away. I know it’s completely, 100% not the same thing as being abandoned on purpose, but that sense of alone-ness, of not having anyone there to comfort you in your darkest moments when you absolutely need them… that, I get.
I feel like there’s a bit of “manic pixie dream girl” dismantling going on here, too. When Emi first meets Ava, she thinks she’s perfect. The girl is a mystery. Ava doesn’t even know anything about her own life! Emi’s dramatic flair takes over, and she wants to solve this mystery. She wants to help Ava in her rags-to-riches fairytale. She wants to be the one who made her. Emi wants to direct the movie of Ava’s life, frame the situation. That the tragedy is in the past and now Ava can be free and live her life in the spotlight. Except… that’s not how real people work. I found this passage particularly beautiful.
I want to confess. I thought that her story was composed of scenes. I thought the tragedy could be glamorous and her grief could be undone by a sunnier future. I thought we could pinpoint dramatic events on a time line and call it a life.
But I was wrong. There are no scenes in life, there are only minutes. And none are skipped over and they all lead to the next. There was the minute that Caroline set Ava down and the minutes it took her to shoot up. There was the minute that Caroline died and all of the minutes before Lenny discovered them. The minute he left Ava there, still crying, and the minutes before the ambulance came. And all of the minutes that followed that, wherever she went next, whoever held her, so many gaps in memory that must have been filled by something important. I want to apologize for not realizing sooner that what I felt in Clyde’s study was not the beginning of a mystery or a project. She was never something waiting to be solved. All she is– all she’s ever been– is a person trying to live a life.
I also want to add that it’s really refreshing to read a book with queer characters that… isn’t about being queer. Emi is gay, obviously, but it’s not her defining trait at all, just like a regular human being. It’s just one facet of her being. So many “queer novels” are about the gay struggle: coming out, getting kicked out of the house, telling your friends, what have you. And those are… important, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of the genre. The world needs to recognize that queer people can lead just as normal lives as anyone else, and that’s who Emi is. She’s a normal teenage girl with an awesome job, a family, a best friend, and a car. Her love is the same as anyone else’s: timid, nervous, afraid of messing up, but passionate. It’s what we all strive for in a relationship, no matter what gender the person we search for it in.
In short, I’ll leave you with this. If you want a completely beautifully written story, with colorful, relatable characters, and fantastically interwoven plotlines to boot, please pick this book up. Do yourself the favor. It’s $11 for your Kindle and you don’t even need a Kindle to read Kindle books! Just get the free app on your smartphone. Seriously. I promise you won’t regret it.