What La La Land Could Have Been: Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Goodreads summary:

A love letter to the craft and romance of film and fate in front of—and behind—the camera from the award-winning author of Hold Still

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.


Beautifully written, a romantic love story that I actually liked (rare, at this point), and film nerdery. What’s not to love?

Y’know how when La La Land came out and everyone was like ‘it’s an ode to Hollywood, oh how wonderful’? Well, this book right here is the ode that Hollywood should work to deserve.

Emi, our main character and a young set designer, is working hard on her career. And, odd sofa-shaped hiccup aside, she’s doing well. But her on-again off-again relationship with a girl who’s frequently a colleague is making her life more tricky when it needs to be. When she meets Ava, she worries a lot about whether she’s doing the right thing – both for her and for Ava. But she discovers the joy and affirmation of following her heart while she tries to navigate this capricious industry, and it’s beautiful to watch her grow.

Emi loves film, and her parents are super into local history, so their family feels properly rooted in the world of this novel. All her friends are in some way related to film-making, and Ava has the coolest connection of them all. She’s not established, but she is determined – and this is where it reminded me of La La Land. These young people are hopefuls, peering in through the windows of film to the world they dream of inhabiting.

But it’s better than La La Land. First of all, f/f romance, obvs. But also, it’s not just the actors who are celebrated – through Emi’s work, we get to see all the excitement and frustration of what goes on behind the scenes as well. I felt like I was falling in love with an industry that I’d never felt more than, frankly, ambivalent about.

And Emi’s romance has some interesting twists in the tale as well. Ava’s identity as the granddaughter of one of the most iconic stars on film is mixed in with her identity as an orphan with an unstable home situation and, to begin with, no money. Wealth is an interesting theme here – the seduction of its sudden appearance, the experience of never having needed to struggle for money versus the experience of never having any hope for any. And I think Emi learns something about the dangers of wanting to fix other people’s problems without actually listening to them, and that’s a really valuable thing to read in a book centred on an industry choked in elitism and cliquery.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed La La Land. And I defy you not to bounce along when that soundtrack kicks off. But Everything Leads to You is more poetic, more poignant, and more powerful than La La Land could ever be. Because it’s about more than love and success. It’s about learning and growing, both as a professional and as a person. It’s about listening. And it is also about love, complicated love, both for an industry that right now could lose you without blinking, and for a person who might only be interested because of the opportunities that your presence in their life represents. Put plainly – and I’m trying to, honestly, but this darn book defies simple description – it’s a book about youth and hope, dreams and certainty. It embraces Hollywood’s past, but it also encourages it to take some brave steps forward.


Middle-class and lower-class is what I would call it in UK terms, not sure if it translates directly to the US. As mentioned, f/f romance – it’s cute and awkward and difficult and I love it.

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour was published by Dutton Books in May 2014. I bought my copy from Gay’s the Word in London, which you should definitely check out if you’re in the area!


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