YA book review: Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour
Overview: Emi has grown up in LA and, particularly, swept up in the business of Hollywood. Her dad is a professor of pop culture at UCLA and her brother got her internships throughout high school on film lots. The movies are her passion and soon to be her career. This is how Emi and her best friend Charlotte stumble into a massive Hollywood mystery when they discover a forgotten letter at an estate sale for one of Hollywoods most beloved old school actors. Part mystery, part coming of age in the bright lights of LA story, it's a quiet novel that's also impossible to put down. Overall: 4
Characters: 4 Emi is smart, driven, and well meaning. She doesn't seem to quite register the advantages she's been given from her family and connections with getting into the world of the movies, but she's sweet and genuine in a way you're hopeful she'll succeed as she tries to elevate her career. Her supportive family makes up her sense of community along with her best friend Charlotte, who's about to leave for college in Michigan, and her ex who works on the same film sets.
As Emi and Charlotte embark on solving the mystery of the letter's recipient, they meet Ava and Jamal who both also grew up in LA but had very different experiences. They all bond together and learn a lot from one another as their lives majorly change. While none of these characters are flashy or steal scenes, the beauty of the book comes from the subtle ways their relationships with each other shift, evolve, grow, mature, and congeal to create a sense of family in the end. The group proves we can be many different things to one another and all of these roles can become equally important.
Plot: 4 There's more plot here than in your average Nina LaCour book as the friend duo sets off to return a letter from a Hollywood star to an unknown recipient and are sent on a chase around the city to unearth the details needed to get the letter into the right hands. On top of that, Emi gets her first big career break as a production designer on a small film and has to work hard to fulfill all her pre-production duties at the same time. This gives the book a structure and a sense of pace and urgency that her trademark quieter, subtler moments unfold within and in between. It's engaging and kept me coming back to the book to discover where the next twist would lead without it overpowering the heart of the story. Also, there's an incredible amount of detail about working in movies and what goes into that art form that's fascinating to experience through the lens of the book.
Writing: 4 Nina LaCour's books always promise fascinating writing and that's just as true for her older books as it is for the newer ones that have gained increasing recognition over the years. I'd say, of all her books I've read (which I'm still working through the entire catalogue), this one is most similar to her first adult novel Yerba Buena, probably because this book is as deeply entwined with Los Angeles as the other, which is very cool to read while I live here. If you are a fan of her work for adults, I'd recommend this one even though it's YA. It's technically a book for teens, a coming of age quest, but it has major cross over appeal and focuses on characters after high school operating as adults.
Note: I'm obsessed with how the publisher has updated all of LaCour's back catalogue with new cover illustrations by Adams Carvahlo who created the stunning cover of We Are Okay. It's cool to see them stylistically match, but they're also all just so beautiful it makes me want to buy a full set of her books.
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