Google+ YA Romantics: Mini-Reviews: Everything Leads to You and Like No Other

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mini-Reviews: Everything Leads to You and Like No Other

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In today's Mini-Reviews, I'm looking at two YA books that feature a not-so-typical YA love story: one is an LGBT romance and the other is a cross-cultural, interracial Romeo and Juliet story.

Everything Leads to You
by Nina LaCour

Published by Dutton
on May 15, 2014

Source: library


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.

Like No Other
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.

17 comments:

  1. I've wanted to read Everything Leads to You since I saw the cover as well. It's sooooo pretty! I've only seen positive reviews for it too which makes it more awesome!

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    1. Ha -- it's about set design so it really appealed to my HGTV-loving self. Also, it's just a really interesting relationship story!

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  2. I heard about Like No Other quite recently and one of the aspects that has me vary is the romance.. and those doubts seem to have been confirmed by what you said. Insta-love has always made me vary but if someone goes to such strong lengths to hang out with a guy she barely knows and that could.. quite literally alter her life.. well, I'd be worried.

    Everything Leads to You sounds really amazing though. I mean we're talking a main character who is already comfortable with who she is and that's not something you encounter all that often in this genre or even in YA!

    Lovely minis Jen!! :)

    Rashika @ The Social Potato

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    1. Yeah, I kept wishing that the relationship in Like No Other could have been a friendship...

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  3. I really want to read Everything Leads to You, though that's not what I use to read.
    I'm. glad that you enjoyed both of them!
    Happy reading!

    Lis @ The reader lines

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    1. It's not my typical book either, but I really loved it!

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  4. Everything Leads to You had the most gorgeous cover. I didn't know there were tales of flea markets and design projects in it though! I love HGTV so yeah, talk of crafts makes my heart pound in an odd way lol. I always think it's more interesting to read about characters who are comfortable in their sexuality then ones who are still figuring things out. There's something refreshing about reading a character who's confident in their own skin, no matter their sexual preference.

    I've never heard of Like No Other before, but it sounds like it could be an interesting story. Maybe a little dramatic for me, because Romeo and Juliet type stories are usually not my thing, but there have been a few notable exceptions, so maybe I would enjoy it.

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  5. Everything Leads to You sounds fantastic. I can't wait to read about these complex characters. I adore realistic fiction with interesting elements.

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  6. Everything Leads to You is on my tbr and now I'm tempted to pick it up and get started on it! I'm glad more and more books about LGBT in YA are being released lately, and this one sounds complex and well-written. I also haven't read anything by Nina LaCour and I'm looking forward to get acquainted with her writing. Fab reviews, Jen!

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  7. They both sound really good - especially Everything Leads to You.

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  8. I have seen both around and I really want to read them. Everything Leads to You seems to be so good. I love it when you describe books as magical! I want to read it right away. I have seen Like No Other at Adrift on Vulcan and it really seems interesting. Great reviews, Jen :)

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  9. Great mini reviews. Haven't read these books, but they sound interesting.

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  10. So what I'm getting after reading these two reviews is that I need to read both of these unique romances? Yes? Yes. Though EVERYTHING LEADS TO YOU seems more up my ally than LIKE NO OTHER.

    Thank you for the wonderful reviews as always, Jen <3

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  11. I'm really looking forward to making time for Everything Leads to You. Your review definitely adds to my excitement. It sounds lovely. <3

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  12. I'm really glad you liked Everything Leads to You. It's on my tbr and isn't one I have. I'll have to check it out from the library.

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  13. I've been looking forward to Everything Leads to You since I first saw the cover. I'm glad that you enjoyed it :) I've never heard of Like No Other, but it sounds like another fantastic read! I'm adding it to my TBR list.

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