Book Review: Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCour

, by Janine M.

Everything Leads To You
By Nina LaCour

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.

My Thoughts:

Everything Leads To You gives a glimpse of life behind the camera, through the eyes of Emi, an intern (high school student, and soon enough, graduate) as set designer of a production team for a big movie. The team brings movies to life by giving color, lighting, props, texture, sound and the right ambiance to every scene. These people work hard, dodging deadlines, pulling strings, committing locations, scoring deals for props, the whole shebang, so that the viewer could have the best visual and auditory experience while watching the film. 

Eherm, Back to Emi. She was in charge of the female protagonist's room, in which a pivotal scene would take place. She has a keen eye for detail, and she believes that surroundings help in defining a character by even the subtlest details that hint at interests/personality/living situation. Her passion and dedication to her craft is evident in the novel. Too evident that she loses herself and comes to a point of disillusionment and frustration when her naive sense of ownership of her contributed work was shattered by her boss' decision to replace the most important piece that she swallowed her pride for to acquire. I love that the main character is driven and passionate, fully aware of what she wants to do with her life. I love that when the opportunity presented itself (indie film), she dove into it, unsure at first, but eventually trusting herself, building confidence that she could make things happen. I love that while her family members' careers are interconnected, the paths she and her brother Toby (location scout) were taking were not forced on them. Still, we can imagine the heavy influence that their parents and living smack dab in Hollywood gave them while they were growing up.

This is not a coming out story. There are some novels out there that tackle just that if you're looking for such. From the start of the novel, everyone knows Emi's preference and the 'rents, bruh, and BFF are cool with it. However, let me just say that while I approve of Emi's drive and ambition, I kenet. I repeat. I kenet take her stupidity when it came to her love life. The saying "Matalino, pero bobo sa pag-ibig" rang so true for her character. But who the hell are we kidding right? Some of us had been in her shoes, once or twice in our youth (Sadly, this can definitely carry over to our "developed, emotionally stable" adult years).

Fate is laid thick and heavy in this novel (duh, please see title), involving a deceased cowboy actor, a letter, an apartment, a baby, an aspiring actress' best friend, and a shitload of money. Read it if you want to know how that all worked out.

I actually liked how the author (warning: spoilers begin from here) did not give us a rushed romance. The characters were well-fleshed out, and with each discovery and experience, we see their growth in how they responded to each new situation. Emi, being the romantic movie nut that she was, saw Ava first as a mystery to be solved, a project to put it bluntly, coated with the illusion of happiness promised by the glamour and wealth of Hollywood. There's this passage (Emi: 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.) that reminded me quite a bit about John Green's Paper Towns (Quentin: Margo was not a miracle. She was not an adventure. She was not a fine and precious thing. She was a girl.). I wonder if that was a nod or just a coincidence, or a common theme on breaking down the manic pixie dream girl trope.

Ava, oh Ava. I cannot describe how much my heart bled for this girl. She represented atonement and hope in this novel.

Charlotte, Emi's BFF and future sis-in-law, is that awesome, frank, and truly caring best friend who looks out for Emi in dealing with matters of the heart and in keeping her sane whenever shit hit the fan. I loved how she would act only half-civil around Morgan and couldn't help dissing her. *glee*

Morgan, while sucking at even trying to love Emi, has to be given credit for helping Emi out best she could, and for believing in our main protagonist's talent. Emi acknowledged at the latter part of the novel that as a coworker/collaborator, she knew she could depend on Morgan. I admire how this nod on the complexity of relationships was tackled in the novel. I'm pretty sure Emi knew she'll have Morgan in her heart forever, though not romantically, and that was okay.

Going back to the romance between Emi and Ava, it wasn't rushed and it felt authentic. Friendship was allowed to grow, with just a hint of flirtation and tension brought about by their reservations (1. at first not knowing if the other liked girls, 2. trust issues from former relationships and 3. Ava's familial identity crisis), leading to... what? The ending was not a period. It was an ellipsis. It was a promise of a great love story waiting to happen.

For me, this was a vivid, poetically-written novel, light and funny, moderately heavy and heart-tugging at the right pace and places. It's about chasing after your dreams, good family relations, friendship, forgiveness and reconciliation, self-discovery, hope, realization of self-worth in relationships, love, and fate. Fate, definitely.

Favorite Quotes:

“Because in the conversation beneath this one, what we're really saying is I am an imperfect person. Here are my failures. Do you want me anyway?” - Em

"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.” - Emi

“There are no scenes in life, there are only minutes. And none are skipped over and they all lead to the next.” - Emi

"When you really want to find someone, it isn't that hard. I should have known all along that she wasn't looking. I feel so stupid." - Ava; "There's nothing stupid about wanting to be loved." - Emi

"As much as I wanted a love story out of a movie, I know now that movies can only hope to capture this kind of love.” - Emi

“We love films because they make us feel something. They speak to our desires, which are never small. They allow us to escape and to dream and to gaze into eyes that are impossibly beautiful and huge. They fill us with longing. But also. They tell us to remember; they remind us of life. Remember, they say, how much it hurts to have your heart broken. Remember about death and suffering and the complexities of living. Remember what it is like to love someone. Remember how it is to be loved. Remember what you feel in this moment. Remember this. Remember this.” - Em

"Her hair is straight, falling over her shoulders. Her eyes are lined with shimmery brown eyeliner and her lips are shining. I will be able to make toast for her in the mornings. I will do my best to get it right." - Emi

 Rating: ♥♥♥♥


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