Everything Leads to You
Dutton Books for Young Readers
Emi, a recent high school grad living in Los Angeles, has a dream job, a great best friend, and a brother who lets her live in his apartment for the summer, but she is having a hard time getting over Morgan, her much older, on-again-off-again (seven times) girlfriend who she also works with. As a set design intern, she is looking for the perfect piece of furniture for a new project when she and her BFF Charlotte come across a note tucked into a record belonging to an uber-famous, very wealthy, reclusive old Western actor who has recently died. The note waxes poetic about love, loss, a child, and an inheritance, and the mystery is too much for Emi and Charlotte to resist. With the help of Google and some very convenient luck, they criss-cross the LA area looking for the people in the letter and befriend Ava, a troubled, homeless teen connected to the famous actor. In Ava, Emi finds not only some closure to the mystery but also a reprieve from her relationship troubles. While some of the circumstances are somewhat unbelievable and the 18-year-olds in this book have lives more like 25-year-olds, Everything Leads to You is refreshing in its normalization of same-sex relationships; the plot does not revolve around nor do the characters obsess about same-sex relationships any more than hetero relationships. Instead the characters enjoy the serendipity and possibilities of their lives among the opulence, sun, and highways of Los Angeles and the film industry.
Have you ever thought about the people who make the sets for movies and TV shows? Me neither until I read this book. I really enjoyed the glimpse into the film industry and such a specific role within it that gets forgotten (and really is meant to be forgotten if they do their job right, right?). What a great way to introduce teens to career possibilities by giving a character in a YA novel an unusual job. That the characters have jobs at all is somewhat notable! Emi and Charlotte are also have a lot of responsibility that they take very seriously, which is refreshing in the sea of irresponsible teen characters in YA novels.
Emi is the stuff diverse book dreams are made of – she’s a mixed-race lesbian who doesn’t linger on either of these identities and neither does anyone else really. Unfortunately her race goes from being totally unaddressed for the first half of the book to suddenly becoming a big deal during a scene at her parents’ house. I wouldn’t have minded except that, in an absence of any hints at her appearance, I assumed – somewhat from the cover and somewhat from my own bias – that she was white and had been picturing her in a way that made it necessary for me to completely reimagine halfway through the book what she looked like. For me, by then, it is so distracting to try to recreate Emi in my mind that it really pulled me out of the story. Also, this appears to be just another example of whitewashing children’s and YA book covers. The Lauren Conrad look-alike on the cover is pretty misleading when you have a bi-racial main character. You could argue that the girl on the cover is Ava, except the cover doesn’t fit her description either as the book goes on and on about her red hair. It’s unfortunate that Nina LaCour’s diverse character is hidden by her own publisher behind the facade of a stereotypical – especially for LA – blonde cover model, assumedly to increase sales.