Cover Image: Instructions for Dancing

Instructions for Dancing

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Member Reviews

*4.5 stars

This book moved me in a way that I wasn't expecting. Nicola has such a way with words and I love her ability to weave a narrative throughout different pov's. In my opinion, no one is doing it quite the same as she is. I found myself tearing up at the end. She is an excellent storyteller.
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This book has rave reviews and I was over the moon to receive an early copy for review! Nicola is a wonderful writer and I understand the hype behind the reviews readers are giving!
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This is one of the most fun things I have ever read and possibly one of the best romances I’ve read as well. Nicola Yoon really knows how to create a story and characters that you want to keep coming back to and not put the book down. I’d recommend this to anyone who liked the movie Shall We Dance. I think even those who don’t like romance would find something to love about this book.
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I loved this book and learned so much about dancing. I’m a huge fan of Nicola Yoon. I look forward to reading more of her books. Thanks so much for the review copy.
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A YA romcom with a twist. Evie has become a cynic about love. After all, her dad cheated on her mom and upended their lives, so how could she believe in love? Here comes the twist - as Evie is donating her romance novel collection, she comes across a book that changes her life. Suddenly, when she sees people kissing in public, she sees their love stories (good and bad). WTH??

As she tries to break this curse, Evie stumbles upon a new hobby - dancing - and a new partner, X. What ensues is a story filled with humor, emotion, love, and life.
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This book is great! Would definitely recommend. Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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As a lover of all Yoon's books, I was of course immediately interested in reading her latest and it did not disappoint! With all of the emotion and appeal you would expect, she delivers yet another tale to get swept up and carried (or danced) away with.
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This was such a captivating story! The characters and their relationships were well developed and I enjoyed reading about their different perspectives through similar experiences. This book was hard to put down and I can't wait to read it again! Thank you to #netgalley for letting me read an advanced copy!
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If you are a romance lover, a contemporary lover, or just a book lover, run and get a copy of Nicola Yoon's Instructions for Dancing. I fell in love with Evie and X from the get, and once you start to read their story, you won't put the book down.

Evie and X (short for Xavier) have the the cutest darn meet-cute I've read in a while.  Bumping into each other at a dance studio that X's grandparents own, and then being partnered for the L.A. Danceball, a ballroom dancing competition that if they win will help the studio out immensely, all seems to be fated.  And in a way it is.  You see, Evie has the power of vision (to her immense surprise), and this led her to the dance studio in the first place. 

Evie has gone through a lot, her parents divorce and finding out her dad cheated (hence the divorce), and has stopped believing in love because of it.  And now, through her visions, she sees the entirety of a relationship of a couple when they kiss, and, unfortunately, the relationship never has a happy ending.  This is what makes her and X's story so irresistible, both to the reader and to Evie.  Because, love, well love can sock you right in the gut and you can't always stop it.

Nicola Yoon writes the most likeable, real characters.  The way she crafts Evie, with her struggles and her joy, and her  cynicism, and her big big big heart, she just lifts off the page.  X has his own struggles, but his big personality and unfailing belief in the world, both in reveling in the good and accepting the bad, makes him swoon-worthy.  And while the main characters are my favorites, I love the entire cast from the best friends to the parents.  These characters are real with faults and dreams, and they sing on the page.

I definitely prefer my romances to be character-driven, so check that off, but Nicola also has this adorable plot focusing on ballroom dancing that I just love.  Fifi, the dance instructor, is a firecracker, and made me laugh every time.  The reason Evie and X agree to the competition pulls at the heart strings.  You want them to win, so that X's grandparents get to continue their dream.  Love, in all it's forms, is center-stage in this book.

One other character I'd like to mention is Los Angeles itself.  Nicola always does an amazing job of bringing the city her books are set in to life.  I love when I get to meet L.A. as a local, and not a tourist, which is so often how the city is portrayed in the media.  There's a little love story to L.A. wrapped in the pages, which I adore.

Irresistible, Instructions for Dancing goes by in a flash.  The realities of love, the highs and the lows, the euphoria and the heartbreak, are all here in the pages, lovingly crafted by Nicola Yoon.  Another fantastic book from one of the Queens of Romance; do yourself a favor and pick up a copy immediately.
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What a great story about learning that love isn’t always bad.  And it’s about allowing yourself to love, even if you know it will leave you miserable.

Evie’s parents are recently divorced, and she has given up on the idea of happily ever after.  In the process of unloading her collection of romance books in a Little Free Library, she meets a woman who encourages her to take a copy of “Instructions for Dancing”.  The book gives the owner the ability to see any kissing couple's future.  This does not help with her belief in love as she witnesses every love story's end. 

To get rid of this “power”, Evie ends up at the ballroom dance studio listed in the book. It is here she meets X.  X is determined to get her to believe in love again.

The touch of magic was just right - the replays of people's love stories were worth the investment.  Also the development and healing of a young heart with a parent that has disappointed them was a great addition to the story line.

Instructions for Dancing is a touching YA story.  I strongly encourage you read the afterward from Nicola Yoon.  It's clearly from the heart. 

Thank you to @netgalley and @randomhousechildrens for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Evie was a huge fan of romance and love until her father has an affair, destroying her family and leaving her questioning why people love when it always ends.  She is gifted or cursed with the ability to see a couple's entire relationship by seeing them kiss.  Rather than making her appreciate how much love there is in the world, it shows her that all relationships end and that perhaps love isn't worth the trouble.  Enter X, the cool rock star who becomes her dance partner and has a live-in-the-moment life philosophy.  

This book was charming and sweet while still taking a serious look at how to recover after being hurt by those you love.  Evie and X are genuine, caring, and (at times) heartbreaking.  Nicola Yoon did it again!
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I rarely read romances. This one I could not put down. I love the magical realism aspect of the main character being able to see the entire history of other people's romances. This book leads you in by making you think it's just a basic story of a teen who doesn't believe in love anymore, but that added twist really makes it fun. I like that her best friend encourages her to follow the clues to help figure out how she got this ability. The characters are entertaining and the cover will really draw in readers.
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Evie Thomas is done with love.

After watching her parents' marriage fall apart, she knows firsthand that love is a scam. Real life doesn't have happy endings. The romance novels she used to adore are all lies.

While her mother tries to move on and her younger sister falls headfirst into every relationship she can, Evie is still angry at her father. And she's furious that she wasted so much time believing in something that never lasts.

Giving up on love seems like the easiest course of action until Evie's plan to donate her romance novel collection to a little free library goes horribly wrong. After accepting a mysterious book from a stranger, Evie can suddenly see people fall in love when they kiss. Her new visions trace each relationship from its tender beginning to the inevitable conclusion. It's more than anyone can take but especially someone who is done with love.

Evie's hunt for a way to stop whatever is happening leads her to La Brea Dance Studio and the owners' charming, very cute nephew X. Where Evie is cautious, X is impulsive. If Evie is reserved, X is open--he always says yes. In other words, they are complete opposites and, through a series of events Evie barely understands, they are also suddenly partners in an amateur dance competition.

All Evie wants to do is stop her weird visions. If that means hanging out with X, fine. Falling for him is definitely not part of the plan, no matter how cute X might be. But the more time Evie spends with X, the more obvious it is that falling for him is as inevitable as standing close during the tango.

After witnessing so many heartbreaks firsthand, Evie knows that love always ends. As she gets closer to X, she'll have to decide if having love at all is enough to risk the inevitable heartbreak in Instructions for Dancing (2021) by Nicola Yoon.

In many ways Instructions for Dancing feels like a natural next step (pun intended) to follow up Yoon's blockbuster sophomore novel The Sun is Also a Star. Through Evie's visions this story spins out from main character Evie's first person narration to show a world that is much larger, and more beautiful, that cynical Evie is at first willing to acknowledge. Elements of fabulism (think magic realism but not by latinx authors) add unexpected magic and whimsy to this subtle story. Evie and X are Black and backed up by an inclusive cast with strong friendships and memorable adults notably including X's grandparents.

Evie's reluctant immersion in the world of competitive dance adds a lot of humor to a story that tackles weighty topics like love and loss with nuance and care. Evie's friend group also plays an important role in the novel as all of them prepare for the end of high school and what that will mean for each of them and their friend web.

Instructions for Dancing is the definition of bittersweet with an ending that is sure to garner a few tears from even the coldest of hearts. With a story that carefully balances hope and pragmatism, Instructions for Dancing is affirming and, ultimately, an ode to love in all of its forms.

Possible Pairings: What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum, But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure, The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee, Everything All at Once by Katrina Leno, The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord, The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley

*An advance e-copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*
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This YA love story was delivered in such a way that will make readers think about the story long after reading. It was beautiful and thoughtful, touching on heavy topics such as divorce, cheating, and moving on. A must-read for all ages.
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I have not loved a book so much in a very long time. Evie and X are everything! I didn't see the X twist coming though, and it broke me.
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OMG, this book wrecked me. Reading the last quarter of this book while in a public place was perhaps not my best idea this week...

Instructions for Dancing made me laugh out loud--there may have even been some snort laughing as well, but I will neither confirm nor deny this. Evie's a very relatable character--she's going through a tough time, and you just want to hug her and help her to figure out how to deal with the changes. Then a mysterious encounter gives her an unusual "gift" (or curse, if you ask Evie for most of the book) that seems to reinforce her belief that love never lasts.

Gah! Each time she "saw" something, I teared up, or worse. Every. Time. Darn you, Ms Yoon.

The secondary characters--Evie's family and friends, the people at the dance center, X--are delightful. Each has a part to play to get Evie to where she is at the end of the book--a person who is more open to love, but who also is even more familiar with heartache.

Pay attention to that tagline that says, "this isn't a romance" and ignore the second line that tells you, "until it is." Because if you know the definition of a romance novel (as our main character Evie definitely does), you'll know that ultimately, this isn't one. I kind of wished it had come with a trigger warning, because I was absolutely not prepared. There were tears. So. Many. Tears.

Have tissues handy, because you're going to need them.

Instructions for Dancing was my first from Nicola Yoon, and though I'd definitely read something from her again, I'm going to need some recovery time first.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
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Cover Story: Fancy Footwork
BFF Charm: Platinum
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: Perfectly Choreographed
Bonus Factors: Ballroom Dancing, Romance Tropes
Relationship Status: Fill Up My Dance Card

Cover Story: Fancy Footwork

From the color scheme to the swooping typeface, this cover is absolutely lovely, like an invite for Afternoon Tea or something. The illustration of Evie and X is delightfully accurate, although I'm not sure why Evie is wearing a white leotard sheer skirt situation when her actual competition dress is sparkly and FIERCE. I also have no idea what's up with the flowers, but they're pretty so I'll allow it. 

The Deal: 

Evie Thomas used to be a huge fan of romance novels, but after her dad cheated on her mom and divorce followed, she promptly threw those books, along with her belief in love, straight into the trash. (JK, Evie donated the books, because she's not a monster.) While her sister has a new boyfriend every month, Evie prefers to focus on the future: high school graduation, a road trip with her besties, and then college at NYU. But when she randomly stumbles upon a book called Instructions for Dancing in a tiny free library, two things happen that drastically change her senior year. First, the book leads Evie to a ballroom dancing school, where she meets a VERY hot dude named X (for Xavier). Second, and more alarming, she begins to have visions of the entire history of random couples when she sees them kiss. Like, the rosy beginning, the contented middle, and the sad, bitter ending.   

Needless to say, this is not normal, nor is her growing attraction to X, who begins to train with her for LA Danceball, a major ballroom competition. Evie finds herself caught between the visions, which hammer home the inevitability of heartbreak, and her feelings for X, which promise the kind of epic love story she's only read about. 

BFF Charm: Platinum

Here's the first thing you need to know about Evie: she labels her bookshelves. 

I mean, I'll continue, because I'm happy to sing her praises, but do you really need to know anything else? She. labels. her. goddamn. bookshelves. Y'ALL.

But okay, yes, there's more to her than being a rad bookworm. She's a caring friend, a deeply insightful thinker, and a vibrant spirit, but I think my favorite thing about Evie is her sense of humor, which is dry AF. Take, for example, her reaction to the opening of gifts at a bridal shower:

"Fifteen presents in, I want to stab myself. Twenty presents in, I do stab myself. I'm kidding." 

I had a blast laughing along with Evie, but I also cherished being all up in her feelings. She's dealing with a tremendous amount of grief over her parents' divorce, and in particular, the fractured image of her father, whom she can't bring herself to speak to. And while girl could use some help processing the pain, Evie is stronger than she thinks, and it was a joy to watch her slowly open up her heart, with a vulnerability and a bravery that made me want to lift her up, Dirty Dancing style. Because nobody puts Evie in a corner.  

Also, special shout-out to Evie's actual bestie, Martin, who is "unapologetic about his ancient tastes*," and wears tweed and blazers with elbow pads. *I tried not to be offended when he brought up Big, and Evie asked if it was an "old movie." 

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

X is straight out of one of Evie's discarded romance novels, in all of the best ways. He's tall; he's got secret abs; he's the lead singer in a band; and yes, his laidback, semi-snarky exterior hides a secret pain. Because of the recent death of his close friend, X lives by a "just say yes" philosophy, which irritates the hell out of Evie and, obviously, only increases the pair's chemistry. Both of them are mourning a serious loss, and the bond that forms as they support each other through the darkness is a beautiful one. 

Talky Talk: Perfectly Choreographed

I like to imagine Nicola Yoon's pen dancing across the pages as she wrote this book, because her writing is precise in its steps while being fully expressive in its movement. (Yes, yes, I'm sure she actually used a computer but let me have this analogy!) Expertly hitting a variety of beats, from lively banter to snicker-worthy humor to crushing sadness, she imbues Evie's story with a compelling, unique rhythm that will sway your emotions, even if the ending itself doesn't quite hit the mark.

Bonus Factor: Ballroom Dancing

As someone who has watched Strictly Ballroom approximately 50 times, I loooooved this element of the book. And that's due in no small part to X and Evie's instructor, Fifi, an Eastern European woman who totally steals the show. Here's a few of her best moments:

"Today, I will introduce you to bachata. At beginning you will not be good. Some of you will be like clumsy newborn baby octopus, but by the end you will be better. You will see, I am fabulous instructor."

"He frowns at me but turns to Fifi. 'So you think we can win this thing?'
She scoffs. 'What is expression about cart and horse?' she asks him.
'Don't put the cart before the horse,' says X. 
'Yes,' she says, nodding. 'In this case, don't bother with cart, because horse might be dead.'" 


Bonus Factor: Romance Tropes

Yoon clearly had a ton of fun utilizing Evie's extensive knowledge of the romance genre, and in turn, I had a blast reading about it. Charming in her self-awareness, Evie knows that her favorite tropes are ridiculous, like when she makes this list:

"Classic Romance Guy Characteristics: A Nonexhaustive List, includes: propensity to smirk. Or to smile lopsided, self-deprecating smiles. Inability to choose appropriately sized clothing. T-shirts are often too tight and stretch distractingly across (well-muscled) chests and toned biceps."

But then she also can't help but see them in real life, like this moment with X:

"He raises a single eyebrow and I almost laugh. For a second, I feel like I'm a character in one of my old romance books. Raising a single eyebrow is such a Classic Romance Guy Characteristic."

Evie is, as mentioned previously, totally over what she considers to be made-up bullshit, which makes this element of the book all the more amusing.

Relationship Status: Fill Up My Dance Card

This novel was the ideal partner, spinning me with feelings while leading me expertly through the layers of story. No matter how many turns we took around the floor, I never lost the spring in my step, thanks to Evie's dynamic voice and Yoon's brand of clever, ever-so-slightly magical realism. 

To quote Eliza Doolittle, I could've danced all night and still have begged for more.
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“here’s what i think. if you get very, very lucky in this life, then you get to love another person so hard and so completely that when you lose them, it rips you apart. i think the pain is the proof of a life well lived and loved.”

cw: divorce, talks about death

oh, nicola yoon. she always knows how to fill my cynical heart with such tender love then proceed to break that heart but somehow eventually mends it back together with all its tiny little pieces. i admit i’m not much of a young adult contemporary romance enthusiast, but something about the way nicola noon writes her stories makes me want to sit in silence for at least 2 business days just thinking about love. i love that her stories may be young adult yet the intimacy between her main characters is mature.

instructions for dancing by nicola yoon is an emotional love story about young girl who has lost her faith in romance, yet has the power to see people’s unfortunate romantic fate, and a dance book that leads her to find her own love story. evie thomas has a new status on love. she doesn’t believe in it anymore. then something magically strange happens to her one day and every time she sees a couple kiss, these cinematic visions of their relationship - past, present, and future - play out. as she tries to understand this seemingly terrible ability she has now, she finds herself entering a dance studio and meeting a boy named X. X, short for Xavier, is daring, charming, and not one to say 'no' to many things. they become ballroom dance partners for a competition and eventually fall for each other. despite evie’s wariness, she takes the risk.

i really loved evie and X !! they were very likable characters and their chemistry and romance progression was well developed. X is my forever best boy - he was such a flirt and so amusing in every interaction, but he’s also such a sad softie that i wanted to hug. the way he read her favorite romance book yeah he’s a keeper for me! although i loved X, i resonated a lot with evie. i appreciated how the cynical shift in evie wasn’t solely due to her parents but the added visions too - it was a very original subplot that harmonized with her troubles. also, cynical besties unite!

the romance is opposites attract and grumpy girl x sunshine boy perhaps. their first interaction is basically a meet-ugly, then there’s some [chef’s kiss] forced proximity, as they have to get to know each other…strictly for dance partner purposes, of course. they had quite a few deep and honest conversations, i just loved how vulnerable and open they were able to be with each other. how safe and grateful yet challenged and thoughtful they felt in each other’s presence. they were able to give each other advice from a place of strength and personal experience that helped in making the tough decisions they both struggled with. X felt like the breath of fresh air, the hope, that evie needed. anyways, it may take me days to recover from that ending … it hurt me deep. i get it. heartbreak is a part of love but …. was this pain necessary??????? yeah, the tears were welling up.

the strongest side characters to me were fife and her parents. i liked martin the best out of the side characters in the friend group, probably because he was the closest to evie in knowing what she was dealing with. the way cassidy and sophie’s relationship was woven into her visions was also a nice deeply personal touch for her - though, that timeline happened quickly. her parents’ issues were well-paced throughout and i liked that she wasn’t so focused on forgiving but understanding what had happened and why. evie and her parents had valid and honestly needed moments throughout the novel, but i especially like the ones toward the end and how the closure didn’t feel rushed at all. in a way, i liked how messy the family drama and different dynamics were because … that’s reality. for example, it was frustrating how her sister didn’t know the truth but it conveyed such great strength in evie to withhold that, on multiple occasions, to protect her younger sister.

instructions for dancing is definitely an easy read! the format of the chapters with the visions, the texts, the lyrics added a lovely piece to the storytelling of this novel. the short chapter lengths were a BIG yes and i’ve never been one to pay much attention to chapter titles, but i enjoyed how these gave a bit of a tease to the chapter ahead. little details i liked were the '(former) favorite romance genres list' and all of evie’s references to romance tropes. it wasn’t cringey at all and was relatably amusing, especially as a romance reader, because she was either trying to avoid it or was just hyper-aware of it. the pool scene trope reversed with her “teaching” him was so cute!

last thoughts: i wasn’t as attached to the dancing parts as i thought i would be, which was kind of a bummer. and don’t forget, “black people invented rock and roll.”

<i>thank you to NetGalley, Penguin Random House and Nicola Yoon for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.</i>
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Thank you Netgalley and Random House Children's/Delacorte Press for the advance copy of this and the opportunity to review.  

I’m a huge Nicola Yoon fan and have absolutely adored her last two books.  THis one didn’t have quite the same punch as the others but was enjoyable nonetheless.  Would recommend for fans of YA.  3.5 stars rounded up.
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Without a doubt, Instructions for Dancing is one of my very favorite young adult romances of the year - and I read a TON of ya romance. 

Initially, I was skeptical about the magical realism - Evie experiences "visions" for how couple's love stories end, whenever she sees couples in love kiss. But, I ended up loving this concept - and how the visions are worked into the plot. What made it work for me was how the visions never overpowered the complexity of the characters. 

I was constantly SURPRISED by this book - something really hard to do for a reader who almost exclusively reads romance. The writing is poetic and lyrical, without being too flowery. It is very self-aware, and pokes fun at the romance genre, one of my very favorite things. Every time I thought I could have predicted the ending, Nicola Yoon said - nope; I'm going to make you cry, instead. And I absolutely loved how it ended, no matter how sad it was.
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