Cover Image: Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena

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Member Reviews

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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I appreciated the opportunity to read an early copy of this novel. While it's been awhile since I first read it, I remember I liked it but it hasn't been a book that has stayed with me.
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I wish I would have read this book closer to straight through for more emotional continuity, but the initial chapters of the main characters’ teenage lives were so heavy that I needed a break before continuing. Upon picking it back up (a week later) the first chapter back, now in their adult lives, was so long, it didn’t really grab me and had me considering DNFing the book - ARC or no. The second half was better, though I agree with other reviews that this book seemed to struggle with its identity throughout. 

Some of the relationships were extremely successful for me, while many more were not. Sara and Emilie’s chemistry was well charged and easily believable - one of the first things that felt right, flowy, and made me curious - and I enjoyed Emilie’s and Colette’s sister dynamic and growth. The connection to food also worked for me, it felt natural through both characters’ reasons and dishes and ingredients were described invitingly and organically. Over the course of the book I’d say our mains get equal story time, though the details of both parts of Sara’s life seem to outshine and take over Emilie’s, but that could be because I felt more connected to Sara. 

I was glad that the story did grow, but the constantly changing tone and focus left it just okay for me. But. It did make me want to buy a yerba buena plant. 💁🏻‍♀️

<i>Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital ARC of this book!</i>
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I was really excited that Nina LaCour was going to write an adult novel, so I was eager to get my hands on this. Her debut adult novel did not let readers down. I really enjoyed this book and I think other people will really enjoy this too.
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I had to DNF this book at only 10% unfortunately. I love Nina LaCour, I've read a few of her YA books and short stories and her writing grips my heart in a beautifully heartbreaking way so I was so excited for this book. However, after reading only a couple chapters I had to put it down and admit that I cannot mentally make it through this book. There's nothing wrong with this book as far as I could tell, her writing is wonderful as always. But, that was my main problem. It is so engaging I fell into the story quickly and that left me too emotionally on edge in a short period of time. This book was already so brutal and I don't think I would have been okay mentally had I continued.
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When she is sixteen years old, Sara runs away from home, fleeing her family and her town after a traumatic event.  After years of struggles, Sara is now a popular bartender in Los Angeles at Yerba Buena, a well-known LA restaurant.  There, she meets Emilie, who creates stunning flower arrangements for the restaurant.  Emilie has had a winding path, constantly changing college majors as she searches for what she really wants to do.  The timing is off at their first meeting.  When Sara and Emilie reconnect years later, they both seem ready to explore their connection.   But Sara's past invades her present, breaking them apart once again.  As they continue to explore their personal and professional relationships, finding success and setbacks, they hope to find a future together -- but are not sure they can overcome their mutual and individual pasts.

This is a powerful book, with indelible characters, strong writing, and a compelling story.  Highly recommended!
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Yerba Buena is like everything that Nina LaCour writes in it’s simple, beauty and lovely heartbreak. I believe she could write a restaurant menu that would make me feel emotional. I could not have loved this story more. 

Advanced reader’s copy provided by NetGallery in exchange for an honest review. Publication date is May 31, 2022.
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I kept listening because of Julia Wehlan's narration and not the story itself. The alternating narrative perspectives felt disconnected to me.
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This was quite well written and I would understand why someone would heap praise onto it, but I was just bored the whole way through. I usually love character studies and it's hard to put my finger on why exactly it fell flat for me, but I at the end of the day I didn't really care much about either Sara or Emilie or their romance.
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There is something about Nina LaCour's books that fill my heart. Even when they are not particularly happy, they leave me feeling full of emotion and love.
Yerba Buena, LaCour's first adult novel, was no exception to this. In fact, this may be her best work yet- and We Are Okay is one of my absolute favorite books. I hope that this book is nominated for all of the awards and that it reaches a wide variety of readers.
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Yerba Buena follows two women over the course of their childhood to their late twenties. Sara Foster runs away from home at sixteen to leave the losses behind her that have shattered her ability to trust and be intimate with others. Years later, she is a sought-after bartender in Los Angeles, as much renowned for her concoctions as the air of mystery surrounding her and her past. Across the city, Emily Dubois is struggling to get started with her future. In her seventh year and fifth major as an undergraduate, she years for beauty and community her Creole grandparents cultivated but can’t find it in herself to commit—to anything or anyone. Impulsively, she decides to take on a job arranging flowers for the glamorous restaurant Yerba Buena—where Sara works. When the two women catch sight of each other, their connection is immediate. But the baggage both women carry is heavy and the universe has a way of cutting them off right when they’re about to connect time and again. When Sara’s old life comes calling just when Emilie and her have found their way to each other, it’s up to them to figure out whether their love is enough to leave their pasts in the dust.

Yerba Buena isn’t easily categorised. For me, it turned out to be nothing like I expected and yet held me captive for the entirety of the book. At times, Yerba Buena read like a reluctant memoir, at others almost like an exorcism of ghosts of the past that haunted the characters.

In this slice of life narrative, we follow two women who ostensibly have nothing in common and yet somehow fit together perfectly. LaCour takes her time to establish both Sara and Emilie as flawed, relatable and lovable characters that you immediately begin to root for. Both Emilie and Sara have got their own struggles but their connection with each other is palpable from their very first chance encounter. Yet they both are faced time and again with the question whether love—real, unconditional love—is enough to make them leave their ghosts in the past. Anyone who’s ever been haunted by their mistakes, their losses or their regrets will surely feel connected to these women.

Ultimately, what drew me to this book was that, as much as it seems to be about star-crossed lovers, it really focused more on trauma and grief. There is an intimacy to how LaCour depicts what happens to Sara and Emilie —and much of this story is what happens to the characters until they finally realise their own agency and try to get out of the harmful and toxic situations they keep finding themselves in. It felt affirming to read about two women who also can’t help but fall into these traps that we’ve all encountered in life and struggle with finding their way out—there are no perfect characters here, everyone is flawed, moral compasses are askew and it just perfectly worked paired with LaCour’s storytelling. Both Sara and Emilie go through different journeys and emotional reprieves are few and fleeting. Though you kind of guess that they’ll cross paths again, you’re always left wondering what else the universe has got in store for them, which compelled me to keep reading. Weaving their tales together toward the end of the book almost felt cathartic.

What I really enjoyed about Yerba Buena was how it showed you how transient everything in life is only to follow it up with something that left a permanent impression you can’t really put into words. LaCour brings this ineffable feeling to every topic discussed in the story—from the depiction of grief to child neglect to missing loved ones and the deep abyss of depression. Yet the story also delivers moments of happiness, of inner strength, of taking yourself out of a harmful situation and, most of all, persevering when life tries to get you down again and again. It’s a masterfully crafted story that at times flows and ebbs like the sea—meaning that sometimes the pacing felt like a Monday that never ends and at others raced the clock when you’re late for an appointment you already don’t feel like going to. It’s a story that essentially shows that no matter how hard or messy life gets, you can always get up one more time. Its heavy themes are explored in excruciating detail but if you’re up for it, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with this heartbreaking yet rewarding story.

A true slice of life narrative, Nina La Cour’s adult debut Yerba Buena is a story of love and loss, family and friendship, of two women finding their way in the world—and each other. At times brutally honest and at others comforting and intimate, this story is perfect for anyone who has ever been kicked down by life only to get up again.
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Yerba Buena is the “good herb” that is both bitter and sweet and this is the overarching, and sometimes a little heavy handed, metaphor for the lives of Sara and Emilie. Nonetheless, Ms Lacour’s first foray into adult fiction has the elegance, quiet power, and delicate craft of her YA fiction.

16 year old Sara runs off from Guerneville to LA after tragedy strikes. At the other end of California, family tragedy hits highschooler Emilie hard. We meet up with both young women a few years later: Sara has dug herself a life creating cocktails for high end restaurants and bars; Emilie is still adrift, changing course again and again. There’s a chance meeting between the two at a restaurant, called Yerba Buena, and then again a year later.

The author draws out both women skillfully and shows their need to resolve their lives. For both, creativity is a channel and they find different genres to express themselves (though I have to say I found Emilie’s sudden, rather vague skill, at house renovation to be a bit unlikely). As their relationship grows, twining them together, the author shows how that is not their salvation, rather that they have to find redemption for themselves before they can move forward.

Both young women have difficult relationships with their parents as well as challenges with their siblings that need to be faced. The author is able to create authentically messy relationships and show how they can organically change and grow.

I have loved many of Ms Lacour’s YA novels and this feels like only a slight shift into adult fiction: I hope this will broaden her audience.

Note: there is one deeply disturbing scene early on in the novel which almost made me abandon the book. It is written obliquely and though the character almost gets herself in a similar situation (at which point I would have jumped ship), she does not.

Thanks to Flatiron Books and Netgalley for the digital review copy.
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In a turn of events that should shock no one, Nina LaCour has done it again, this time with her adult debut. It's gorgeously written, and her characters are as richly developed and emotionally complex as ever, while the scope (and trauma!!) are upped for an adult market. And this book definitely deals with capital-T Trauma, so do seek out content warnings (including sexual assault, coercion, drug use and abuse, addiction, OD'ing, family death/cancer, and a slew of other things). It's still lovely and wrenching and lush and hopeful and pragmatic and a lot of seemingly contradictory things all at the same time, but LaCour manages to pull it all off. It's one of the best books I've read this year.
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A meaningful, beautifully written, hopeful novel about love, self-discovery, misunderstandings and relationships. 

Yerba Buena ("the good herb") is a recurring theme in this story - a minty herb that is supposed to help heal your heart after a heartbreak and a name of a restaurant where our characters - Sara and Emilie - meet for the first time. Like the herb itself, the story is rich in flavor yet delicate, fragrant and vibrant. 

Sarah and Emilie are pulled towards each other from the get-go, their connection undeniable and almost too good to be true. The emotional baggage they both carry proves to be too much though, and as quickly as the universe brings them together, it pulls them apart. They'll have to find each other again, but first they'll have to find themselves. 

Yerba Buena shows us just how fragile relationships can be, how easy it is to get lost in the wrong ones, how we sometimes convince ourselves we don't deserve the good ones. And how hard it is to open up, be vulnerable and tell ourselves that we do, indeed, deserve to be loved. That our past does not define who we are, who we can become.. 

I really enjoyed reading this book. It's achingly human.
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An epic love story for the ages in the most modern of ways, this book from Nina LaCour will be all of the rage and on every single list this Fall. EVERY SINGLE LIST. 

Two women, struggling with life, family, sexuality, death, ----basically any and everything that one could experience from birth to adulthood.--

But this isn't a simple, meet cute story of two girls in love. This is a story about addiction and timing and knowing when things are right. It's about reckoning with the past and accepting the way things are in order to find the love that was always there. 

Thanks to Netgally and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this wonderful book.
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If there's anything that Nina LaCour does well, it's write complex and deeply flawed characters that feel so wonderfully real that it feels rude to actually rate the title. This book was beautiful in the sense that it captured characters and their traumas as realistically as possible and shows the complexity of relationships without giving a "love solves all" sort of codependency message. Because it was so realistic, it moved a little slow for my liking with a resolution of contentment versus something deeply satisfying, but it is certainly still worth the read.
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I absolutely loved this book.

This is what I wanted Sweetbitter to be, but Yerba Buena exceeded all of my expectations.

Grief, yearning, but also a quiet beauty. This is a love letter to LA, to one’s history, food and drink. 

This is about finding that thing that will heal oneself. 

It was beautiful.
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Yerba Buena is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. Exploring themes of addiction, generational trauma, and self-discovery, it follows the lives of Sara Foster and Emilie Dubois from their teenage years to their mid-20s, focusing on their individual lived experiences until a chance meeting at a restaurant pulls them briefly together, then apart.

Yerba Buena is a book about the complexities of relationships, romantic ones and familial ones and friendships. I wouldn't call it a romance in the traditional sense, though; it's much more of an intense character study focusing on two damaged women who have been marked by trauma, who are trying to heal from things they still struggle to speak of. Sara and Emilie are such finely-drawn, authentic characters with richly-woven backstories. I found myself really rooting for both of them -- not for their relationship, necessarily, but more that they would each, individually, find growth and healing from their pasts.

Yerba Buena is textured and rich and vibrant, with melancholia and reflection balanced so perfectly in the narrative with hope and optimism. LaCour evokes a strong sense of place with vivid, descriptive prose that conveys emotion in such an honest, understated way. She handles serious topics so gently and lovingly. This is just such a stunning book -- a modern, thoughtful, heartfelt story about life and love and grief and recovery. It's my first novel by LaCour and makes me so excited to delve into her backlist. If Yerba Buena is any indication, she seems like one of those authors whose books will just speak to me.
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