Nina LaCour’s Everything Leads to You, just out last month and the AfterEllen Book Club selection for May, was hands down one of the sweetest lesbian love stories I’ve experienced in a while, and that includes books, TV, movies, what have you. It was part love letter to LA, part mystery, and part sweeping romance of first love. So let’s go ahead and talk about it, why don’t we. [Spoilers ahead!]
1) So while all of those things—the mystery, the love letter to LA, the romance—seem like good things, and this mainly did feel like a happy book, there were also a lot of darker, more complex elements hidden within. For instance, Ava running away from home and living in a homeless shelter after her mom found out she was gay was pretty darn dark, as was the backstory of Ava’s biological mother. And even though he was a millionaire, Clyde seemed like a pretty sad character, too.
Halfway through the story, Emi’s family and heritage of being mixed-race was also subtly but surely thrown in the mix, as well.
These are important themes to talk about in a YA novel. But one of the things that bothered me about this book (although I still very much liked this book) was that these dark spots seemed to be glossed over too quickly. One, I wanted more of Emi’s family once we learned they were so awesome. But mainly, while we knew Ava lived at a shelter and had some bad experiences there, we never actually saw the shelter ourselves, and Ava never talked about it. And her rags-to-riches storyline seemed a little TOO perfect, to go from a shelter to a ridiculous glass penthouse apartment, without a ton of processing or freaking out about it all on Ava’s part. Sad lesbian teen suddenly gets all the money AND a lead acting role with no prior experience AND the girl, and life is perfect! Ta daaaaa!
But then again—this wasn’t Ava’s story; it was Emi’s. Ava purposely needs to have some mystery, since we’re hearing it from Emi’s point of view, and Ava is still so new to her, so it makes sense that we don’t see the shelter. We do see her old home and the coldness of her mom, and that is probably enough for the purpose of this book.
Plus, one could make the argument that the whole purpose of stories sometimes is to live out the fantasies that we wish could happen every day to regular people. So is there anything necessarily wrong with the rags-to-riches storyline? No, not really. Perhaps I’m being too cynical. Or perhaps I’m not. Did you think the dark parts of the story were fleshed out enough? Was Ava’s story over the top, or positively plausible?
2) Speaking of fantasy, some book clubbers also found the idea of an 18-year-old Hollywood production designer a little hard to swallow. I agree that this threw me off a little, especially at the beginning. Of course, I’m sure that these things happen in Hollywood; it’s just never happened to anyone I know. Did you find this plot point too unrealistic?
3) Unrealistic as it may have been, though, the set and production design aspect of Emi’s life took up a huge chunk of the novel, and I found it really interesting. This is perhaps because I’ve never actually thought about sets too much when I watch a movie, at least down to the detail of every room as Emi so passionately describes it. Of course, I realize that my not-noticing those details as a movie viewer means the production designers are doing their job. But reading this novel definitely made me want to do several things, like watch a lot of movies, live in Los Angeles, and pay attention to set details the next time I do watch a movie!
I also have to say that of all the jobs in Hollywood you can have, driving all around the city picking up unique furniture and neat household finds at estate sales and boutique stores sounds like a pretty sweet job to me. If you could plant yourself into a story like this one, what job in Hollywood would YOU most like to have?
4) One thing that did seem truly authentic in this story was Emi and Ava’s developing relationship. It was also nice how, even though Ava did have the traumatizing rejection-from-home-life storyline, neither Emi nor Ava were doubtful or unaware of their sexuality throughout the book. This was not a coming-out YA tale. They were pure lesbos from Page One.
And as book clubber Ali put it, the theme that Emi frequently mentions, of movies losing some of their element of magic or fantasy when you’re able to look at them from behind the scenes, works well as a metaphor for love, as well, especially your first one. Ali said it very eloquently.
When you first fall in love, it’s a dream, it’s perfection, it’s the movies. But, I suppose in the end it’s rarely real, or at least not as perfect as you imagined. Distance and time make you see the holes in it… the imperfections. Reflecting back on your first love can feel like rewatching a movie you loved as a child only to find it was nothing like you remembered. The dialogue seems forced and dumb, the setting seems dated, the plot has giant holes. But you still love it because it meant something to you at the time. That feels a lot like first love to me.
Yeah. What she said.
Did you enjoy Emi and Ali’s relationship? Also, were you disappointed that it took so long to get to where you knew it was going, or did you enjoy the tension and suspense?
5) Your turn. What else were your favorite or least favorite parts of this book?