Member Reviews

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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Nina LaCour has been my favorite author since I first read Everything Leads to You back in 2018. I have loved every novel of hers, so I was thrilled to find out about her first adult novel. Yerba Buena is classic LaCour: a beautiful story of love, loss, and hope.
Sara and Emilie each come with their own baggage of trauma and family complications. When they first meet you can feel their spark and chemistry leap from the page. Their love story is pure and sweet, until ghosts from both of their pasts turn up to haunt them. LaCour maintains a perfect balance of heartbreaking grief and heartwarming hope throughout the story, providing an ending that is both realistic and satisfying to the reader that’s now fully invested in Sara and Emilie’s relationship.
I found that this story, like LaCour’s others, crept up silently like a wave, slowly building throughout and pulling you under at the end. I have never not been in tears when finishing one of her novels and Yerba Buena was no exception. I highly recommend picking up a copy of this novel when it’s released in on May 31, 2022.

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Writing that is both simple and heartfelt. I didn't know what to anticipate from my second time with Nina LaCour, but I was pleasantly surprised by how realistic the characters could be.

Full review to come on publication month! Rating may change.

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Thank you for the opportunity to review Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour. This is the first book I've read by LaCour, and almost certainly won't be my last. It is a beautifully written love story, that projects love not just between the characters themselves but also between the characters and the settings they find themselves in. This is exactly the kind of writing that keeps me glued to my seat, thinking "just one more chapter"

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“She listened for her own breath. There it was. She was still a part of the world.”

If the novel YERBA BUENA is one thing, it’s a quiet scream: a slow, meditative story about two queer girls growing into unfinished women with an intense, incessant undercurrent of loss, grief, and pain pulsing beneath the surface of every page. It’s a beautiful book, understated in the best way, romantic but not a fantasy, a story that revels in the beauty of everyday moments and incremental progress. It deeply unsettled me and I absolutely loved it.

The novel alternates between two perspectives, Sara and Emilie. Sara grows up in a small town in Northern California with parents enmeshed in substance use. After the loss of her mother and her first love, Annie, she leaves her younger brother behind and runs away to LA where she struggles to find her footing, haunted by loss and the terrible cost of her independence. Emilie is born and raised in LA, a somewhat estranged daughter to her seemingly tight-knit family, set adrift in part by her sister’s addiction and her own sense of dislocation. After many years in college with multiple almost-finished majors and an affair with a married restaurateur, the fog she’s been living through finally begins to clear as she cares for her dying grandmother and begins to connect with her Creole heritage.

They meet as adults when each has somewhat found their place in the world: Sara as a highly acclaimed cocktail maker and restaurant consultant, Emilie as a florist and later restorer of run-down homes. Though you know the two women will meet, it’s not until over halfway through the novel that they have their first connection - and even then, despite their immediate intimacy, their relationship is initially thwarted by both external and internal forces. But throughout, LaCour beautifully ties the women together, partially through parallel experiences and feelings, and also with the recurrence of yerba buena: as an herb in the garden of a family friend, as a healing tea steeped in a gas station styrofoam cup, as the name of an upscale restaurant that enters into each woman’s sphere. There’s an unexplainable spark between them, a sense of familiarity, of safety, of home, despite their lack of time together. After the pain and struggles that each of them endure, it’s a soothing balm to see them come together at last, however imperfectly.

LaCour captures a sense of place majestically, and not just beautiful ones - redwood groves and hipster restaurants and seaside mansions - but grimy, dingy places too, truck stop hotels and musty rural houses and those dim studio apartments that are the first independent homes for many of us. What I loved most about the rootedness of the story is how LaCour connects these places with the characters’ emotional growth, how where we are in relation to ourselves changes how we feel in a space.

With observant, straight-forward prose, this story nonetheless contains multitudes. It’s about how our parents fail us, and how our siblings can rise to support us; how they inevitably fail us too, and the beauty of reconnecting, relearning each other as adults. It’s about growing up in a small, impoverished town, and what it’s like to return after disappearing. It’s about substance use and the ripple effects on those that use, on those who love them, on family units and communities. It’s about loss and grief, about finding a space inside of you for those feelings that will never leave but learning to move forward anyway. It’s about finding your home, not so much in a specific place but in people and, most importantly, within yourself. It’s about choosing each other, despite knowing that the ways each of you are wounded will continue to hurt the other, how you will continue to come together despite this, that intentionality of choosing your person, relentlessly, regardless. This is what Sara and Emilie’s story has spoken to me, and I’m eager to hear what it will say to you.

This book has sunk its teeth into me and hasn’t let go. YERBA BUENA is one to watch out for. Thanks to Flatiron Books for the eARC; this novel comes out in May.

Content warnings: illness and dying, death of a loved one, survival sex work, child sexual abuse, addiction, death from overdose

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Yerba Buena is a fantastic exploration of nostalgia and vulnerability. I found Sara and Emilie to both be poignant characters with rich histories and complex emotions. I loved their connection throughout the story, and how their pasts contributed to who they are without defining them. This whole book feels as warm and sunny as light streaming through a window, and the descriptions of food, cocktails, and plants are all so vibrant. I know that this is a story I'll hold close to me, just as I have with all of Nina LaCour's previous books!

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Yerba Buena is a beautiful book! I listened to the audio version, and I loved every second. The story follows Annie and Sara throughout different points in their lives, though the majority of the story takes place after they first meet. Sara grew up the daughter of a drug seller and a drug user, and she loses her high school girlfriend to opioid addiction, causing Sara to run away from home and that town and find a new life in Los Angeles. Annie grew up in the shadow of her sister's addiction, and she feels lost and unmoored as she slowly finishes college and tries to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Yerba buena the plant and Yerba Buena the fictional restaurant play a repeating role in both women's lives as they come together and grow apart and back together.

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This book starts out really intense. There are some pretty heavy topics in the beginning of this book that could make it difficult to start for some. (tw: SA, SW, drug use/abuse, OD, teen death, neglect, parent death). There continue to be some heavy topics but also some beautiful moments between the characters and how you seem them pass each other through life. The things that connect them and interweave their lives together. It’s lovely to see how Emily and Sara both grow while they find themselves and each other. There are a few moments of pretension where I felt like “wait that doesn’t feel authentic at all to this character” but they were fleeting.

Some moments are hard to get through emotionally but I also felt like it paid off in the end.

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YES YES YES. in the wise words of zoe, this book literally felt like a lorde song in the best possible way. i love nina lacour and everything she writes, and i'm not changing my mind :)

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This book. This book. This book.

It was perfect. It was tender and lovely and so, so queer. It was heartbroken in a perfect way. The heartbreak was not a result of queerness, which was so great to see. That said, there was something incredibly queer about the heartbreak that ran through this book. It was about family and friends and coincidences and choices. It was about how someone can be a little sad and a little lonely and a little lost, but can still do their best and find joy. It was about how you can change your life in big ways and small ways, and it was about how all of our choices matter. It was the perfect, lovely, sad thing that I needed in my life right now. Somehow, I found it hopeful.

I fell in love with both of these characters completely. They were both complicated, but LaCour treated them with compassion even when they didn't deserve it. The choices that they made were completely logical, even when I wanted them to make different choices. Every moment was earned.

The writing was lovely - never overwritten, but not sparse or cold. I got lost in it. While I never wanted it to end, it was also the perfect length. I will be thinking about the ending for a long time.

One thing to note - this is not a romance. I've seen a few people who have shelved it as such on GoodReads and elsewhere. If you go into this book expecting a romance, you'll probably be disappointed. There is a romantic element, but it is not a romance by any other metric.

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Wow, I loved this book. It was well-written, compelling, the characters were relatable. It really had everything. I will highly, highly recommend this book to anyone who likes coming of age stories and/or character studies. I also like the discussion around culture and ethnicity and trying to reconnect with that aspect of ourselves. I really enjoyed this one and the cover is beautiful!

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Nina LaCour's debut adult title was fantastic. Her lyrical writing was so emotional and relatable. I love the depiction of queer women and the drama and intensity of some pretty hard backstories for these characters. I was always rooting for the romance and left so devastated in a good way by the end. LaCour is a great writer and I look forward to more adult titles from her about queer women!

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Fantastic adult/women's fic/literary fic debut from YA author Nina LaCour! Yerba Buena is a heartfelt, poignant and at times very heavy novel about relationships, identity, and growing up. It felt realistic and gentle towards its suffering protagonists. Definitely recommend.

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After some earth-shattering events that destroyed her trust in her father, Sara ran away from home at the age of 16 and never looked back, creating a new life for herself in LA. Emilie is a lost soul who seven years and five majors later is still in college with no idea what’s she’s doing. These two women connect at Yerba Buena, a glamorous restaurant where Sara is a bartender and Emilie is arranging flowers and having an affair with the owner. Despite an immediate connection, the universe keeps pulling them apart only to have them cross paths again.

Character driven stories aren’t usually my favorite, but there was something about this one that had me captivated. Following these two women as they tried to find their way in the world and try to work through their issues. LaCour’s writing is stunning and really is what made this novel feel so reflective and hopeful while also so complicated and tragic. I loved reading the women’s backstories and trying to piece together how they would become connected.

I really enjoyed the audiobook, my one complaint is that I wish each of the characters had her own narrator. As fantastic as the narrator was, it was challenging to differentiate which POV I was listening to at times.

This was my first book by Nina LaCour and it won’t be my last!

Thanks to NetGalley, MacMillan Audio, and FlatIron Books for the advanced copies.

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