by Nina LaCour
Published by Dutton
on May 15, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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 take: I absolutely loved Nina LaCour's 2012 YA book The Disenchantments and when I saw the cover of Everything Leads to You, I was dying to read it even though I had no idea what it was about. I wasn't disappointed. I thought that Everything Leads to You was a magical book -- a love story that deftly explores themes of illusion and reality in both movies and romance.
Emi was a fascinating character. She's the biracial daughter of two academics, brash and self-assured, and just knows she'll have a fantastic career in Hollywood. She's landed an amazing job assisting a well-known set designer. Her confidence gets her into trouble sometimes, and I loved the way that this story showed both the positive and negative side of that personality trait. She's trying to extricate herself from a not-great relationship with a co-worker. And one day, she gets a call from a friend who tells her about an estate sale of an actor, a Hollywood legend. That sale will lead Emi on a journey of self-discovery and love.
There was just something about this book that made me -- an HGTV addict -- want to climb inside it and live there. Emi spends her time hanging around cool flea markets, finding stuff to use for her design projects. While this is an LGBT story, it's not a coming-out-of-closet one. Emi is completely comfortable with herself and her sexual identity. But the girl Emi falls in love with is having major identity issues -- can't say more without spoilers -- and I loved the way the story took Emi's job -- she has to take fictional film characters and figure out how to translate those characters into objects to be used on set -- and uses that job to explore issues of identity and social class.
by Una LaMarche
Published by Razorbill
on July 24, 2014
Source: ARC giveaway at ALA Midwinter
Synopsis from Goodreads: Devorah is a consummate good girl who has never challenged the ways of her strict Hasidic upbringing. Jaxon is a fun-loving, book-smart nerd who has never been comfortable around girls (unless you count his four younger sisters). They've spent their entire lives in Brooklyn, on opposite sides of the same street. Their paths never crossed . . . until one day, they did. When a hurricane strikes the Northeast, the pair becomes stranded in an elevator together, where fate leaves them no choice but to make an otherwise risky connection. Though their relation is strictly forbidden, Devorah and Jax arrange secret meetings and risk everything to be together. But how far can they go? Just how much are they willing to give up?
My take: I've always been drawn to those literary classics in which the main character feels trapped by a repressive social world and is desperately looking for a way out. In Like No Other, a contemporary Brooklyn Hasidic Jewish community almost feels like a nineteenth-century one, a self-contained community in which women's roles are carefully circumscribed and their freedoms limited. When a girl from this community has a chance encounter with a boy of a different race and religion, it leads her to question everything she knows. I've been fascinated by books that feature Jewish culture and traditions since I fell in love with the All of a Kind Family series as a kid. While I have no way to know if that aspect of Like No Other was accurate, it was definitely absorbing.
What I did struggle with was the romance. As much as I'm also a sucker for Romeo and Juliet tales, I felt this whirlwind romance had plausibility issues and a fair bit of insta-love. In Devorah's culture, spending time alone with any boy could mar her reputation, and being caught alone with a boy from outside her community could turn her into a complete outcast. It definitely took some suspension of disbelief to accept that Devorah would do something so impulsive and potentially life-altering -- something that could alienate her from her family and community forever -- to spend time with a boy she barely knew.
I did love the fact that Like No Other featured such a interesting (and under-represented in YA) a character as Jaxon -- he's a West Indian American kid who attends an elite, highly competitive urban public high school. However, at times I questioned the dual POV format. This really felt like Devorah's story. As much as I'd love to read a different book with a protagonist like Jaxon, I often found myself skimming his POV chapters to get back to hers, since his chapters were more often teenage-boy-in-love ruminations, and she was constantly on the brink of real danger. So while I enjoyed this book, to me it was more believable as a story about identity and independence than a YA romance.