Cover Image: Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena

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If you like character-driven stories, this one is for you. Nina LaCour! I love her. This one didn't grab me as much as We are Okay and Watch Over Me, but I still loved it. The characters are rich, and LaCour excels at character building. The prose is meaty--what does that even mean? But it perfectly explains her writing. Is she TRYING to make her readers cry? Because she always gets me. The audiobook narrator, Julia Whelan, did an absolutely fantastic job with all the different characters' voices. Thank you so much to the author, publisher, and Netgalley for a copy of the ebook and audiobook!

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I don’t quite know or remember what I expected from Yerba Buena, Nina LaCour’s adult fiction debut, but it was different from the other books I’ve read from LaCour. This story follows Sara Foster, who as the book opens has a girlfriend and lives in a small town. Unfortunately, her girlfriend goes missing and later is found dead. Sara can’t stand it in her town and runs away to LA. She eventually becomes this famous bartender. Her path eventually crosses with Emilie Dubois, a student who has been in undergrad for like 6 years. Currently Emilie makes her money by arranging flowers for the Yerba Buena restaurant. The connection Sara and Emilie feel when they first meet is electric. However, the two both carry emotional baggage and are continually pulled apart.

Admittedly, I really liked the beginning of Yerba Buena, when we get Sara’s backstory and reason for coming to LA, also her journey to LA which is traumatic in itself. I just found that part compelling, emotional and interesting. I was a little lost in the middle of the book, but also could be due to my own personal life distractions. By the end though, my interest came back. I liked how things resolved for Sara and Emilie. I actually liked how Emilie ended up finding her path in life too. The audiobook was probably not the best personal choice for me to experience this book — because I’ve been so distracted. I think someone who can focus will like this better. The audiobook is narrated by Julia Whelan who truly is an excellent narrator and it is eight hours long.

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This book was beautifully written, I just couldn't invest in the characters or the romance. I loved Emilie and would have gladly read about her life, but Sara did not resonate with me and I didn't appreciate the insta-love aspect of their relationship. It felt out of tune with the rest of the story.

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Raw and real, just like any Nina LaCour book. Her first debut was beautiful, if jarring at times, and the simple beauty of her writing was, as always, intoxicating.

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Processing the past to move forward seems to be an expertise of author Nina Lacouer. Coming off the success of her last book, We Are Not OK, she has a new novel. In Yerba Buena, Sarah and Emile have pasts they would like to leave behind. Both include regretful decisions and devastating losses. Their relationship creates a crossroads; do they get dragged back to their past or move forward together?

A young Sara sees the body of her girlfriend dredged from the river, she suspects her father might be involved. Frightened, she leaves with her friend on a perilous journey from Santa Rosa to Los Angeles to start a new life.

Emile is directionless. She starts and stops degrees with nothing taking hold. When she sees a help wanted sign at a Florist shop, she is drawn to it. Bringing and arranging flowers at a restaurant, she begins an affair with the owner. This ends disastrously. Returning to the restaurant later, she sees Sara working the bar. After a passionate night together, Emile is rushed to the hospital while Sarah must bail her brother out of jail. Are they meant to be together, or will the fates keep them apart?

Both stories are heartbreaking. Sarah's tale is quite harrowing and traumatic. I was more drawn to the story of her need to start over with no resources. This is a beautifully detailed story of hard lives finding peace together.

Favorite Passages:
“After Sara’s mother died, they returned to the house, three of them now. A little boy, hardly more than a toddler, who could not be consoled after the tiniest sadness: milk gone curdled and dumped out of the glass, a hole in his sock, a missing toy. A man who joked and laughed with his friends but howled in his bedroom at night so fiercely he woke his children. A twelve-year-old girl, every part of her tender and ragged. It hurt to eat and it hurt to be hungry. To be awake was to be in despair, but her muscles grew sore from inertia.”

“What could she say in response to that? Fleetingly, she wondered if this was a thing he did, like a side project, observing people in their natural environments. It was something she loved—being in other people’s houses, seeing the colors they painted their walls and the objects they kept on their bookshelves. But when she met his eyes, his desire was plain.”

“when you’re a passing person, other people believe what they want to about you. Whatever is easier or better for them. They see what they want to, in you. So if you don’t really know what you want—or if you know what you want, but it’s bad for you—you can veer off in the wrong direction.” Emilie closed the book, set it back on its shelf. “But if you do know, then, I guess, you have a lot of freedom.”

“So this was how it felt—to be dealt a blow, to pause, to keep going in spite of it. Not to start over but to continue.”

“Still, she felt that she deserved that kind of beauty if she craved it, especially if she made it for herself. She didn’t feel out of place in it. Her grandparents had known their worth and kept reaching. They’d dressed in tuxes and ballgowns despite being turned away from restaurants and jobs. They’d written love letters in the midst of a war. They’d danced through displacement and heartache. They’d made rich lives for themselves from the little they were given, posed in front of their houses as the camera shutters clicked.”

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Nina LaCour is such an incredible writer. She writes some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking words. I loved Yerba Buena. It absolutely broke my heart and made me cry and I am so happy that it did. LaCour has shown she can write across genres and age ranges and I am so looking forward to her future incredible work.

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Unfortunately, while I liked the concept and the premise, I couldn't get into this book. I stopped trying about 50 pages in. I couldn't connect with the writing style, too much telling and I couldn’t get a handle on the setting. The cover was lovely, I was reading it on the plane while on vacation so I could really focus on it. I would be interested in giving the author another try in a future book.

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Thank you Netgalley for ARC for this book. This was a fantastic read, even though it was sometimes difficult. There was a lot of trauma & loss & sadness, yet the story was so compelling.

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I went into this story blind and absolutely fell in love with LaCour's flawed but so very loveable characters. Sara and Emilie have such distinct voices as they both struggle through years of feeling adrift. The novel is split between the two characters perspectives as they grow from adolescence to early adulthood and finally find their way into each other's lives while also finding their passions and themselves. LaCour has crafted a story that is specific to her characters but also so very relatable to anyone who has every felt out of place or lost or not quite enough.

I will endlessly recommend this queer coming of age story and think back on it often. I'm looking forward to diving in to more of LaCour's writing soon.

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I loved this book from start to finish. Compelling characters, beautiful writing, and an engaging plot that will make it hard to walk away from.

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Nina LaCour continues to be one of my favorite authors. There's such an effortless craft to her writing -- you can tell no word is carelessly added, but there's still an ease to her prose.
Even though this was her adult debut and I knew that, I was still taken aback by some of the content. However, all of the pieces in the story felt fleshed out and not gratuitous, and aided in character growth and backstory.
It's a deceptively short novel that touches upon so many topics -- grief, love, addiction, rebirth, abuse, and coming to terms with uncomfortable truths. I'm eager to read what she has out next.

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WOW this book was a delight! YERBA BUENA by Nina LaCour follows Sara and Emilie, two well-defined, complex, lovable characters, as they navigate love, loss, family drama, career ups and downs, heartbreak, and more.

I've read a few of LaCour's YA novels, and this novel, her adult debut, lived up to my memory of her beautiful writing and compelling characters. I loved the way LaCour weaved Sara and Emilie's stories together, building complex, intricate lives and worlds for them both. This story gripped me - it was at times heartwrenching, at times heartwarming, and felt completely genuine and believable throughout - and aspects of it will stay with me for a long time.

I highly recommend YERBA BUENA to LaCour's fans, and anyone looking for a beautiful story.

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I love Nina LaCour’s young adult novels, so I was so excited to read her adult debut. The writing was gorgeous and made it so hard to put down. I think I would categorize it more as a literary fiction novel.

I love that it was told in alternating points of view. Sara was a determined but grief stricken character. Emilie just seemed so lost in life. I enjoyed how it was such a slow burn romance when it did start budding.

This book immediately starts with love and loss and drags you right in. The backstory on both girls was intense and well told. I highly recommend this book as I had a hard time finishing it, because I simply didn’t want it to end.

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Love, Loss, Rebirth, Queer love.
We experience the events from the alternating Emilie and Sara’s points of view. Time moves forward but the past has a heavy hand.
Not a quick beach read but something you'll want to sit down and savor, experience.
Fun game, every time "Yerba Buena" is mentioned you take a shot lol. Or not, depending on what you're drinking it may affect you greatly.

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Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour is a contemporary romance, featuring two women with a history of trauma and grief, a chance meeting at a restaurant, and an instant romantic connection. Sarah Foster is a renowned bartender at the eatery Yerba Buena. It’s here at Yerba Buena that Sarah meets Emily DuBois. The two women are immediately drawn to one another, but must navigate each other’s histories if they are to become a part of each other’s futures.

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This was beautifully written to be sure. Admittedly I put it aside for a bit in the middle but I’m so glad I returned, because the second half was wonderfully layered and everything came together in the end.

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I had previously read a Nina Lacour book and not loved it, so I was hesitant coming into her adult debut. However, I was pleasantly surprised! I really loved this tenderhearted, coming-of-age story about finding love and healing from your past. I love stories with a foodie element, so I appreciated that this book incorporated food and drink into its narrative. These characters were complicated and messy, but truly lovable. The writing was also absolutely beautiful with so many quotable lines. I think if you enjoy coming of age stories, foodie fiction, and love stories with messy characters, you will love Yerba Buena!

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How do you choose your next read? I'm typically a mood reader. I choose whichever book strikes my fancy at any given moment. This strategy helps me from getting burned out on reading, but it also means that some books that I've agreed to review for publishers have to wait until I'm in the right mindset to read them. Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour is one such casualty. I received an ebook and audiobook of the novel well before it was published in May, but the queer coming-of-age story wasn't what I wanted to read then. I've been more about a quick-paced plot as of late, so thrillers have been my go-to read for the last couple of weeks. Still, I've found that books in that genre just aren't giving me the character development that I can latch on to. So here I am, in the perfect mood to read a book like Yerba Buena.

Sara is looking for an escape. She finally felt like she could accept herself when her secret girlfriend was found dead. Either unwilling or unable to cope with that loss at such a young age, Sara did what any enterprising teenager would do. She ran away from home. In her attempt to put the traumas of her past behind her, she encountered new ordeals that would haunt her into her future. All this is to say that Sara carried a lot of baggage as she entered adulthood. Years later she found a kind of safe haven and peace with her job as a bartender at the trendy restaurant Yerba Buena. It is here that her path would collide with Emilie, changing the trajectory of her life forever.

Emilie is feeling stuck. She's been in college for seven years, cycling through five different majors only to feel as if she still hasn't found her path in life. Low on time, patience, and money, she randomly takes up a job with a flower shop. Emilie finds refuge in the task of floral arrangement, a process that allows her creativity to flourish while also earning her some much-needed money. As her obvious talent reveals itself, she is entrusted with arranging bouquets for different clients. One of these clients just so happens to be the restaurant Yerba Buena.

Yerba Buena sees successful YA author Nina LaCour successfully transition to a work geared more for adult audiences. There are still echoes of her writing for younger readers, especially in moments that show the main characters before they are adults. In this case, that works to LaCour's benefit, imbuing the young characters with an authenticity that I was immediately able to connect with. The novel is as complex as the people who inhabit it, a work that tackles topics of sexuality, coming of age, and family trauma through layered scenarios, time periods, and relationships. This is a slow burn of a read. LaCour allows her story to unfold at a natural pace, freeing her characters and their emotions to dictate what comes next. This means that the characters, not the plot, drive the momentum of the novel. It was a bit of an adjustment for this seasoned thriller reader, but I was ultimately happy to have this change of pace. Yerba Buena works as an expertly written romance and coming-of-age story that brims with a purity that is rarely found in character-driven works.

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I received an ARC of Yerba Buena from Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review.

I was very much looking forward to Nina LaCour’s adult debut after being enraptured by the lyrical prose and melancholy tone of We Are Okay—I wasn’t sure if that mood was specific to that book, or if it was just LaCour’s style. It’s the latter! Yerba Beuna maintains everything I loved about the writing in We Are Okay...unfortunately, almost nothing else here works, and in this case, the writing style actively undermines rather than reinforces the characters and story.

Yerba Buena follows two characters: Sara, who runs away from home with a boy named Grant after the death of her girlfriend, and Emilie, who has no distinguishing characteristics that I can recall. They circle like stars in orbit around one another until inevitably colliding. Sara’s story, although it has a more immediate hook, is much more difficult to connect with—the things she does and the things that happen to her, while not necessarily unrealistic, escalate and accelerate to the point where they become absurd. Rather than slowly turning up the heat, LaCour merely drops the frog into boiling water, leaving the reader without any time to become invested.

Emilie’s story, while more digestible than Sara’s, still left me cold and distant. Everyone she interacts with struck me as far too cavalier about situations and relationships which should elicit strong emotional reactions. I think this is intentional, meant to reflect Emilie’s detached internal state, but intentionality does not necessarily make something good. It makes her story hard to follow and hard to care about, and the dreamy prose only exacerbates this problem, to the point where the eventual Sara/Emilie relationship feels perfunctory rather than fulfilling.

What makes all this is so odd is that I know LaCour can wield distance and dreaminess to great effect; these same qualities were exactly what made We Are Okay so good. Why does it play out differently here? What ineffable variable changed? I don’t know. There is one haunting image from the beginning of Yerba Beuna which will be seared into my brain for a long while—that of Sara’s girlfriend being dredged from the river, water pouring from her body. But the rest of this book was like a slippery eel I was unable to get a grip on, a nebulous and half-remembered thing that couldn’t command my attention.

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Yerba Buena
By: Nina LaCour

Quote: “My favorite thing about my home is sharing it with the people I love.”

Thank You NetGalley and Flat Iron Books for the e-arc. Yerba Buena follows two women whose paths keep crossing. It’s coming of age and star-crossed lovers vibe. I cared so much for both of the characters. The book switch between two POV: Emilie’s and Sara’s and get to know them between their teens and twenties. Both comes from a difficult homes and they wanted a fresh start but their past keep getting in the middle of their story. The author really focuses heavily on descriptions of settings and locations. Even though this is a good thing sometimes got me distracted in the descriptions and not the plot.

This book made me reflect in how come you could meet the perfect partner and still not be the perfect timing. Both characters were deeply in love, had the greatest chemistry and their timing was never “the perfect time”. Life kept getting on the way and sometimes that’s just it.

I really Loved the book and like I said I felt deeply for both of the characters. <3

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