Cover Image: Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena

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Member Reviews

Wow. What a beautiful, intense, emotional, and deep story about family, friends, love, life, and everything in between. Sara and Emilie's lives are told separately and together. Very different but so similar. They both are searching for meaning and more than what their families and hometowns could give them. Turns out that they are an integral part of each other's journeys.
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This is my first read by Nina LaCour, so I was not sure what to expect.  This is a story of two damaged lives finding each other in a plant shop.  It has a lot of triggers: sex, drugs, abuse, and young death.  The first couple of chapters were great paced, but as I kept reading I found myself not carrying about the story because the character's were not that interesting and it was a little hard to follow the changes of POV.  I would say that this would be great for someone that loves detail on everything.

Thanks to NetGalley and Flatiron Books.
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This book is bound to be a summer favorite. Love, loss, regret, and inner truths are all featured in this piece that feels like a coming of age story. I loved it!
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This one was much heavier than I anticipated and while I should have been prepared for that after reading We Are Okay by LaCour, I wasn't. It's well written and weaves together the lives of Sarah and Emily in a really poetic way. At times it felt a little unbalanced but I ended up enjoying how she brought things full circle. Overall, it was sad and beautiful but did not quite grip me the way I was hoping it would
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TW: Sexual, drug, alcohol abuse & death of a teenager.
 
Sarah and Emilie didn’t grow up together. But they both share a past that haunts them. Sarah lost her best friend, her girlfriend. Emile is is struggling to find a career for herself. They meet at Yerba Buena through the magic of herbs and plants. Told in alternating POVs and with flashes of the past, we follow along ethic journey to forgiveness. 

The pacing starting out so good and gut wrenching. It was hard. Some very difficult things happened and I was so enthralled. Somewhere along the half way mark I began to struggle. I had a hard time connecting with the characters or wanting to know their story. A very beautiful book buy ultimately something was lacking. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Flatiron Books for a copy of this eARC
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The novel itself....it is equal parts heartbreaking and soul feeding - and damn near perfect. I was drawn to the various calls to Yerba Buena as a plant and metaphor and how it affected all the characters. The romance feels so satisfying and honest while showing how two people can deal with trauma and still make things work. The characters felt fully realized and I could read their stories forever. What a stunning adult debut from Nina LaCour!
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At its core, 𝐘𝐄𝐑𝐁𝐀 𝐁𝐔𝐄𝐍𝐀 by Nina LaCour is a love story featuring two women, each lost in her own way, slowly finding their way toward each other, but it's also so much more. These are women who on the surface have little in common. Sara has had a hard life, a life of loss and disappointment, but she’s driven. By sheer will, she’s going to build a life for herself. Emilie grew up in a strong, loving family, but she’s somehow lost, still working on her degree after 5 majors and 7 years as an undergrad. She’s trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. So far, it may sound like sort of a fluff book, but it’s definitely so much more. Both women have darkness in their lives and much to overcome.⁣
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This book marks Nina LaCour’s adult debut, and I could feel a little bit of the YA world she comes from in this story, but I think that’s what makes 𝘠𝘦𝘳𝘣𝘢 𝘉𝘶𝘦𝘯𝘢 a perfect summer read. It should be in everyone’s beach bag! With good storylines, likable characters, a bit of mystery, and a little romance, what more can you want? On top of that, if you decide to go the audiobook route (as I did), it’s narrated by Julia Whelan! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25⁣
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Thanks to @macmillan.audio an ALC, and to @flatiron_books for the #gifted ARC of #YerbaBuena.
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This BOOK!! I loved this book so much it might be one of the best ones I've read this year. I've always been a huge fan of Nina LaCour and I was so honored to get an ARC of her debut adult novel, Yerba Buena. This story is told from dual perspectives of the lives of the two main characters throughout their teens and twenties and how their lives intersect. I loved experiencing life through the perspectives of both characters, LaCour writes so well that I feel truly understood in both characters. Her prose is fantastic, but the book is also exciting and kept my attention. I didn't want to put it down. If you love contemporary fiction with a sapphic romance thrown in and some beautiful writing and storytelling, this book is for you. Thank you to Netgalley and Flatiron books for the ARC!
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Yerba Buena first and foremost, is a love story.  It follows the stories of Sara, a traumatized youth that leaves home after a tragic event at 15, and Emilie, a woman who is unhappy with her life, and seems to just be floating through, going with the flow.  They cross paths several times in their life, but due to misunderstandings and situations beyond their control, they have trouble making their instant attraction work.  This follows their sometimes star crossed story.

This book is a true love story.  By that, I mean it is not all rainbows and happy endings.  Life is not like that, and I appreciate when authors are more realistic with their plot lines than the typical "romance" novel.  While this is a book about romantic love, I would definitely not call it a "romance novel".  It will will appeal to a wide array of people, not just those in the LGBT+ set.  I loved the softness of this story, even as a straight female.

This book would definitely appeal to LGBT+ readers, as well as just plain readers who enjoy a literary fiction with a LGBT twist.  

Thank you to the Author, Publisher and Net Galley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I am a great fan of author Nina LaCour, having read several of her novels for young adults.  Her books have a dreamlike quality as they focus mainly on young, gay teens.  The fact that they are gay is secondary to other issues that they might have, such as depression, and wavering self-confidence.  But all of them are about how the characters move from children to adults.  Although her newest book, Yerba Buena, is a novel for (and about) adults, many of the same themes continue.  

I was initially put off by the beginning of the novel due to the harsh reality of one of the characters.  I found it all rather depressing to read.  However, I stuck with it.  This is a book about getting past family baggage.  The characters have learned coping mechanisms that may have helped them as kids, but are doing them no favors as adults.  So what was at first very depressing, comes out hopeful. I became very invested in the characters of Sara and Emilie, and rooted for them to find happiness.  This is a wonderful book.  

Trigger Warning:

Be aware of some really disturbing scenes of sexual exploitation at the beginning of the story. 



What I Liked:

Characters:

Both Sara and Emilie have significant challenges in their lives.  Sara comes from a family where her father is involved in something illegal.  Coming from a small town in Northern California, Sara falls apart when someone important to her dies.  She can't cope, so runs away.  Solo life is filled with promise, but also hard choices.  She is constantly running from her past so she never puts down roots.

Emilie is part of a family where her sister's problems take center stage.  Because of this, she is a people pleaser.  She feels like if she doesn't make constant compromises, the people she loves tend to leave.  She needs to figure out how to get past this, or she will always be disappointed.  No one ever really can make her happy but herself.

Romance:

Sara and Emilie meet and are instantly attracted to each other.  But their timing is always lousy.  Either Sara or Emilie have family problems to face, or they are dating other people.  Their romance happens in starts and stops.  There are a lot of miscommunications that carry over months.  When they see each other again, they need to start fresh.  But they both know that there is a connection there that they need to explore.

Story:

I loved seeing Sara and Emilie grow as people over the course of the story.  Sara's journey is accepting the past and realizing that she can't save other people.  She is so afraid of going back home, that she misses out on being a part of her brother's life.  She also needs to take a step back and understand how much she has been able to accomplish in her life. 

Emilie can't seem to finish what she starts.  A perpetual student, she keeps changing majors.  By not making a commitment, she doesn't have to take responsibility for her choices.  The same issues occur when she starts dating a married man.  Even though it's exciting, her affair is just another way to hold off on making any real connections with people who she might have a future with. 

I liked how both Sara and Emilie had to confront their choices (and non-choices), in order for them to let go of their issues.

What I Was Mixed About:

I found the beginning of the Sara's story very confusing and creepy.  It was unclear to me why Sara's father acted the way he did (which could be completely my fault as a reader).  And I thought it was kind of out of left field when Sara gets abused by one of her father's friends.  Later in the story, everything makes a lot more sense, and perhaps that was deliberate on the author's part.   But it creeped me out that Sara could be so easily be put in a situation where she could be sex trafficked.   I suppose the author was also making a deliberate choice to show how vulnerable young people are.
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Yerba Buena is the story of Sara, who runs away from her hometown in northern CA after two brutal losses, and Emilie, whose sense of self-worth has taken blow after subtle blow until she finds herself a 7th year undergraduate student, unsure of what she wants in everything from a major to a lover. The women cross paths in Yerba Buena, an LA restaurant where they both work at different points, and spend many of the following years being pulled in and out of each others’ worlds as they grow past versions of themselves they’re trying, desperately, to leave behind.

Briefly mentioned in the synopsis are Sara’s job as a bartender and Emilie’s, arranging flowers, but it’s only when you read the book that you see how central their work is to the story. For me, the most striking parts of Yerba Buena were the two women experiencing each other’s creative genius. The most captivating scenes were their careful, observant, detailed descriptions of what goes into choosing ingredients and flavors for a drink, colors and textures for a bouquet. Sara and Emilie are not artists in the traditional sense of the word, but they turn their work into art experiences that are immediately noticed by the other. To me, romances propped up purely by physical attraction are hard to invest in but the Yerba Buena flavor - attraction stemming from creative talent - is incredibly compelling.  Emilie, placing the right ferns in a bouquet; Sara, creating the right flavors in a drink. A love story that takes flight from noticing the artistry and magic someone’s infused into their innocuous job.

(Is that what a soulmate is? Someone whose ordinary work and life seems like an act of brilliant creativity?)

All in all, this book is many things: an engaging story told through quiet writing, a slow bloom of a character study centering responsibility and identity, a reminder that magic can exist in the queer love you have for people that didn’t bring you to queerness itself. 

It is sharp, sour, sweet, sunny - much like a good summer drink - and I highly recommend getting yourself a copy when it comes out May 31st (many thanks to NetGalley for the ARC) to experience Nina LaCour absolutely kill it at adult fiction.
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I've been waiting to read Yerba Buena after loving and reading Nina LaCour's YA books, and it didn't disappoint. Nina writes with so much emotion, that it's hard not to relate to her characters. The intersection of Sarah and Emilie's lives was well done. I found myself relating to both Sarah and Emilie as well as empathizing with their traumas. Their lives are complicated and messy which made for a truly authentic story.

CW: drug use, overdose, sex work, sexual assault of a child, death of a parent
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I have read a few of Nina Lacour's YA novels, and they are quiet, yet lovely, much like Yerba Buena. The story, admittedly, started out a little slowly for me, as the author's books tend to, likely because it took me a minute to care about the characters. I was sympathetic toward both women from the start, but as the book went on, I absolutely began to care about them.

We follow the two women through their teen years and into young adulthood, where they both go through quite a bit. Their stories lead us to discover how the women have become who they are today, but also how they ended up crossing paths and finding each other. The bread and butter of this story is of course the personal journeys of both women coming of age, and figuring themselves out. They must navigate friendships, first loves, losses, and changing family dynamics.

This is certainly not a plot heavy book, but if you are in it for character development and a strong focus on relationships (romantic and otherwise) then this is a lovely story to embark on.

Bottom Line: A quiet yet beautifully woven tale of two women finding themselves and each other in the midst of life's triumphs and heartbreaks.
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The first two chapters are so distinctly different, both in the narration style and the character's journeys, at first Yerba Buena read as a collection of short stories. I actually looked it up when I was halfway through the second chapter to see if it was, only to find that the two protagonists' journeys intersect down the road. Now I was reading it with a new lens, trying to find the ways in which these women's stories would connect. 

A total exploration of grief and loss and finding our way through the world, LaCour's new book was beautifully written and deeply emotional. It's a complicated love story between Sara and Emilie, who have gone through so much, and are trying to find out if their love will win out despite their ongoing struggles to reconcile with their pasts.
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3.75. I liked this books but I had some qualms.

1. Emilie is insufferable up until she starts caring for her grandmother. The privilege reeked and it was hard for me to have empathy for her character, although she grew on me in the last half. I think part of it was it was very hard to find her relatable based on my experiences and she came off as whiny, especially with her story being the stark contrast to Sara’s. 

2. The pacing of this felt disjointed and jumpy at times, especially when the author does not always give you a metric to know how much time has passed when she jumps years ahead. 

3. The ending just felt a tad incomplete. I really loved it but I felt like it could’ve used just a *bit* more to tie it together 

4. Overall it felt too ambitious. I think focusing on maybe one or two less story plots or shortening the time span this book takes place over would have done the story wonders.

Overall though I liked it, I loved Sara, and the last half was much stronger than the first IMO. I’d read another LaCour.
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Yerba Buena follows two queer women, Sara and Emilie, as they twist their lives around their traumas. Told from their alternating points of view, you slowly watch their lives start to entangle. Can they look past the pain of their past - the death of a lover and having a drug addict for a sister? Can they finally become whole again wrapped in each other’s arms? Or will their fear keep them at arm’s reach, knowing they could pull each other up from the depths of despair they can’t seem to climb out of?
 
In true Nina LaCour fashion, this book introduced trauma and drug you through the mud with the characters. I don’t know how she manages to pull me in like she does. I read this in nearly one sitting, just as I always do because I truly could not put it down.
 
Sara has a sad past – she lost her mother to illness and now lives with her younger brother and her nearly absent father. Sara is a lesbian and is in a secret relationship with her best friend, two years running. One night, during intimacy, she notices a mark at her girlfriend’s inner elbow – her heart drops. She ignores it, it could be nothing, right? Until she gets a call from her father, she’s missing.
 
Emilie returns home from working in the church gardens with her best friend Pablo. She opens the door and her father, Bas, tells her to call an ambulance. Her sister is unconscious from an overdose. Her father told her to stay home and wait – she sits in the dark and waits. Her relationship with her sister forever changed.
 
Both of these characters go through waves of healing, and you go through the long process together. I really liked how LaCour showed their traumas, how they always came back to the Yerba Buena, how it drew them together. This is her adult debut, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. I will say, even though it’s adult, there’s not really any spicy scenes. Although, I don’t feel like they would fit well into this book. It’s contents are too sensitive to include smut. I really couldn’t recommend this book enough.
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A shifting narrative between two women from their teens to their 20’s, their ups and their downs. I didn’t like how it started, looking back to the rest of the book, it was much too quick. The two women’s lives converge slowly and I liked the way they were brought together, it felt natural; sounded like a click. I didn’t care much for these characters at first but as I read on and more of their lives are revealed, I warmed up to them eventually. I think they weren’t as engaging as the could have been; not really much of a hindrance for me though The themes in this book were heavy, I was satisfied with the way some were touched upon while others I wished were dealt with less superficially. The back and forth in time without outright saying how much has passed annoyed me at first until I eventually understood the style the book was going for.

What made me really appreciate this was the writing and the atmosphere. A very smooth read, consistent from beginning to end; both sad and hopeful. It had a gentle tone to it that I think complimented well.
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This book started off pretty dark but there is a lot of light, love and growth by the end. I also wasn't put off by the start at all even though it was a bit heart-breaking. This just enveloped me and comforted me -- I was rooting for the characters but also just wanted to find out what would happen.  It certainly became unputdownable and I know I will re-read this.  I also loved the narrator!

This book was just beautiful and I didn't want it to end.  Yerba Buena comes out next week on May 31, 2022, you can purchase HERE, and I hope you consider reading this one!  

They rode together up the hill. Blur of trees and sky outside, groan of brakes, a current between them. With each curve of the road, the press of one bare shoulder against another, until the bus slowed and stopped. 

The doors folded open, they stepped out to the street. Armstrong Drive dead-ended there--a parking lot, a ranger's station, the entrance to the woods. Sara unzipped her backpack and pulled out a thermos, unscrewed the lid and sipped. Their fingers touched as Annie took it, and Sara watched Annie press her mouth against its metal rim and drink.
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An absolutely stunning adult debut from Nina LaCour! A sapphic literary romance that pulls no punches and shows the complexity of queer womanhood, trauma, and the uncertainity adulthood brings to all of us. This is a story about two young queer women, set over the course of ten years that explores elements of family trauma, self doubt, grief, and the pain that often comes with love. 

Something to keep in mind - this book is not your typical genre romance novel, and I do not say that as a slight to this book; this is one of my only full five star books of 2022. This is just something to consider when book talking or when you go to pick it up to read yourself. It has element of a romance and does have a Happlily for Now ending, but this reads much more like a literary novel that is character driven and about self exploration, trauma and grief  (and beautiful prose) than about plot and getting to that HEA.
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Although I'm not sure I personally vibe with a book where one character is so wispy I can't grasp her, who's who in her life, and why I should care to remember, the other lead is a solid anchor and the book feels much more grounded once they meet (well, re-meet). It's certainly not my favorite LaCour (which is, oddly enough, We Are Okay, a book that's probably emotionally very similar if I think about it), and the time-hopping in the beginning does it no favors, but it still kept me invested and now that I've finished it, I realize it was only because this book felt like it delved so deep into fifteen years of their lives that I can't even pinpoint the when of my annoyance. It's a subtle thing LaCour does here, and I've seen other characters like Emilie who are drippy or victims. If the worst thing about her is that I got a little frustrated...good job.
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