Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Publisher: Dutton BYR
Release date: May 15th 2014
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: Bought

A wunderkind young set designer, Emi has already started to find her way in the competitive Hollywood film world. Emi is a film buff and a true romantic, but her real-life relationships are a mess. She has desperately gone back to the same girl too many times to mention. But then a mysterious letter from a silver screen legend leads Emi to Ava. Ava is unlike anyone Emi has ever met. She has a tumultuous, not-so-glamorous past, and lives an unconventional life. She’s enigmatic…. She’s beautiful. And she is about to expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true romance.
Everything Leads to You is a masterpiece, in terms of intersectional feminism as well as in regards to just being an amazing book. The main character is a biracial lesbian, without either her race or her sexuality being the main point of the plot. I basically want to all-caps that sentence, add a row of exclamation marks, and have that be my review, because that alone makes me so happy. YA is ruled by straight white girls, and I can't get over how big a deal this is. Before Everything Leads to You, I've never read a YA with a biracial lesbian as a main character focusing on neither her race nor her sexuality - and I don't think there are any others, at least not  released by the Big Five publishers. (Correct me if I'm wrong - I would love to read them, if they are out there.) Everything about this book made feminist-me and book-lover-me so, so happy.

Emi and Ava are amazing characters, dynamic and real. They are both flawed but ultimately strong characters; their emotions are what carry the novel. Their relationship develops slowly and realistically; the romance is expertly written. I love how their sexuality is never the focus of the story, but still interweaved with it. This just happens to be a love story about two girls. Still, Everything Leads to You addresses a ton of the issues LGBTQ people in general and LGBTQ youth in particular face. While Emi's parents have never had a problem with her being gay (her parents are badass feminists; her mom is a professor of gender studies and black studies), it is clear that not everyone is lucky enough to have parents like Emi's. There's references into failed relationships due to going out with someone who wasn't out or even willing to admit their queerness to themselves, and we get some insight into the issue of disproportionate amounts of homelessness among LGBTQ youth. All of this is simply a part of Emi's and Ava's story, rather than the main focus of the novel.

Issues of race and class are treated with the same nuance, even if they don't play as important a role as homosexuality. Emi is biracial, and it's never really made an issue - it just comes up once when Jamal sees a picture of Emi's darker-skinned brother. When it comes to class, Emi is most definitely privileged, and this is addressed throughout the novel: she's a bit oblivious at first, but especially Jamal, former street kid, opens her eyes and she learns to acknowledge her privilege. 

Asides from all of this, Everything Leads to You is simply a great story. My favorite part was learning so much about set design and what all goes into making a movie; Emi's passion for movies is infectious. Nina LaCour's writing is what makes this such an absorbing read, equal parts fun and thought-provoking. 

This is exactly the kind of representation we need. Everything Leads to You is a fantastically written, engrossing story that just happens to be about a biracial lesbian. This shouldn't be such a big deal, but it is. With an honest, respectful approach to issues of race, class, and sexuality, Everything Leads to You gets all of the feminist brownie points. This is a book that needs to be read - both because of its diversity and because it's such an amazing novel. Everything Leads to You is a news favorite that I know will stay with me for a while. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I head no idea this book had so many kinds of representation! I thought it might only be one of those Hollywood "glitz and glamor" type books, so I'm glad I found your review. And it even deals with privilege? I need this now...
    - Lina @ Every Book a World


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