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REVIEW:  Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

REVIEW: Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

everything-lacour

Dear Ms. LaCour,

I’ve been on a contemporary kick lately. Something to distract me from my speculative fiction funk, I guess. I haven’t read any of your previous novels but after Everything Leads To You, I think I’ll be tracking them down.

Emi Price is a high school senior who lives in L.A. Her older brother is a location scout and through him, she was able to land an internship as a set designer. But this isn’t really nepotism — Emi is talented. Young, sure, but talented at what she does.

Unfortunately, her love life is a disaster. Her girlfriend just broke up with her for the sixth (yes, sixth) time and Emi knows it’s only a matter of time before Morgan comes back around and charms her way back into Emi’s life. Thankfully, something pops up into her life that provides a welcome distraction.

When she goes to the estate sale of a deceased American Western movie icon, she discovers a letter tucked into an old record. That letter sends her on a quest, leading her to the movie icon’s daughter (also deceased) and from there, to the man’s granddaughter, Ava.

How great is it to read a contemporary YA romance about lesbians, without making it about coming out or being angsty about it. There’s nothing wrong with those types of books. We definitely need them but I also think it’s good to have other kinds of stories too, ones in which the teen lesbians have already come to terms with their sexuality and the people who surround them are totally okay with it. Emi’s love of girls is a complete non-issue and I love that.

I really liked Emi’s passion. It’s different — being a set designer. It’s like being an artist but not in the traditional way in which we think about it: painting, sculpting, drawing. Following along Emi’s quest to make the perfect set, I felt like I got a glimpse into what it’s like to put together the perfect room, all the little details that capture a time and place and evoke a mood in a movie. I think back to all the movies I’ve watched, from summer blockbuster to indie arthouse, and feel exhausted, thinking about all the work that went into putting those kitchens together!

Emi falling in love with Ava was inevitable, I think. But I like that it was tempered by Emi’s past relationship with Morgan. Morgan was Emi’s first place and she held on to that for longer than she should have, always taking her back even when Morgan didn’t love Emi the same way (or at all) that Emi loved her. The last thing she should be doing is jumping headfirst into another relationship, especially with someone whose life is about to take a complete 180. On the other hand, maybe this is one of life’s little mysteries and maybe she should anyway!

I thought Everything was a love letter to movies. If you love movies and the making of movies, I definitely think you should pick this book up. But I also think it’s a book about not waiting for the perfect moment like in a movie because life is not a movie and that perfect cinematic moment may never come. Sometimes you only get the one chance.

I really liked this book. I wasn’t sure what to think of it in the beginning but halfway through I fell in and couldn’t come up for air. Three cheers for heroines with unusual jobs that they’re passionate about. I hope other contemporaries about queer teens where being queer is a non-issue become a thing. (I don’t think they should replace all the coming out stories but I want to believe both types of stoties can co-exist in harmony.) For now, I’m going to look for your other books! B

My regards,
Jia

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REVIEW:  How Sweet It Is by Melissa Brayden

REVIEW: How Sweet It Is by Melissa Brayden

how-sweet

Some things are better than chocolate…

Molly O’Brien is a sweetheart. Her friends and neighbors all think so. While she enjoys her quiet life running the town bakeshop in Applewood, Illinois, she wonders if there could be more. After losing the love of her life four years prior in a plane crash, Molly thinks she’s ready to navigate the dicey dating waters once again. However, you can’t always pick who your heart latches on to. When Jordan Tuscana, the beautiful younger sister of her lost love, returns to town, Molly finds her interest piqued in a manner she wasn’t prepared for.

As secrets are uncovered, Molly and Jordan must figure out how to navigate the difficult terrain of their multi-faceted relationship. Especially when something much deeper seems to be bubbling between them.

Dear Ms. Brayden,

At first this appears to be just a sweet – sorry, no pun on Molly’s job intended – story of second chances and small town life but soon layers begin to develop. Is Molly truly over the loss of her first and only love and ready to date again? Has Jordan finally developed the confidence needed to shrug off her parents’ disappointment in her career choice and need to match up to the high standards her older sister so effortlessly achieved?

And what about their professional lives? Can Molly save her bakeshop – the place where she grew up and the business into which she’s poured her heart? And what will Jordan’s next move be now that the big Hollywood studio is demanding what she won’t give?

Finally can Molly and Jordan navigate the rough waters of falling in love with the memory of Cassie – Molly’s first love and Jordan’s older sister – hanging over their heads? There’s a lot going on here.

These women are real with faults and flaws to go along with their sexiness in a tank top and cut-offs. Molly’s initial forays into the dating world start humorously but eventually serve to show her just how right Jordan is for her. Still Molly’s flight response to the family disapproval when the relationship is discovered reveals the fact that she and Cassie might have been deeply in love but were operating more on smooth sailing autopilot. Life with Jordan will challenge Molly to plumb the depths of emotion and might be a bit rockier. Is Molly willing to risk the hurt that might follow?

I like that Molly can be exasperating at times. And it’s realistic that she’s going to hurt Jordan while she’s finally working out her unresolved grief for Cassie and seeing that a relationship can be so much more. Still, Cassie isn’t vilified to make Jordan look better and Molly’s heartfelt visits to Cassie’s grave show how deeply they were in love.

Jordan has old demons to deal with. As a younger sister myself I can identify with how difficult and, at times, frustrating it can be to try and live up to a high achieving older sister. I didn’t act out as Jordan did but I can certainly understand wanting to match up yet stand out as her own person. It’s hard to watch her fall prey to the whisperings of someone who clearly wants to drive a wedge in her relationship with Molly but even worse, though understandable, when her family also falls into old patterns of comparison.

There are a lot of old habits that are dying hard here but I appreciate that they are shown in all their ugliness and that the characters are given time to work through and change them. While some of the external conflicts are a bit too neatly resolved, I also like that no one has completely dealt with everything – though the epilogue shows great progress – when the story ends.

For readers looking for a quieter, character driven story, I think this is a good one to reach for. Molly and Jordan are both out and comfortable with their sexual orientation and it appears the small town of Applewood accepts them as well. Perhaps this is more a magical LGBT Never Never Land but the emphasis of the story is not gaining community or family acceptance but rather working out their relationship on its own. B-

~Jayne

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