Cover Image: Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena

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Member Reviews

A beautiful, contemporary love story about two women who are trying to find their way in the world, and find each other in the process. I have never read anything by Nina LaCour, but I know how beloved she is by YA readers. I was looking forward to read her first adult novel, and it certainly didn't disappoint. I loved the LA setting, the poignant coming of age stories, and the truly sweet and gorgeous love between Emilie and Sara -- two characters who I really enjoyed spending time with.
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Nina LaCour is the only author I regularly read who is guaranteed to make me ugly cry theough every novel. Yerba Buena is poignant, traumatic, and beautifully written, This book is definitely more new adult than YA, but older teens will be as captivated by the characters and their journeys as adults will be.
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"She existed outside of her life and she knew it. When faced with danger, she couldn’t even shout. She barely heard a word people said, too busy making her face appear eager, nodding her head, and saying, “How interesting.”"

I read and loved LaCour's previous books and was very excited to see an adult novel. It did not disappoint. 

I loved the story of Sara and Emilie, each of them struggling in their own way, trying to feel whole and trying to make their lives "work." Trying to survive in a world that hasn't been kind to them. I loved how each of them have an art (flowers/renovating and making cocktails) that allows them to bring forth their creativity and add their unique beauty to the world. I loved how real and flawed they are.

This story is about love. It's about trying again, being willing to be vulnerable and be seen and finding your way in a world that hasn't always been good to you. LaCour is an excellent story teller and this story will stay with you for a long, long time.

with gratitude to Flatiron Books and netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review
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*Yerba Buena* was like the 80's lesbian teen classic *Annie on my Mind* grew up and became a modern adult novel. It's both really sad--pain and heartbreak filled--and also achingly sweet and hopeful and lovely. Instead of the theme of the African violet as a plant throughout, this has Yerba Buena, and instead of letters and parents answering landlines we have modern technology. But it feels so evocative and connected to this story i knew by heart, and i am so glad to have spent the evening reading it.
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Wow. I can’t say how excited I was to get to read a new Nina LaCour book early, and I can’t explain how much this lived up to an surpassed all my expectations. 

This book felt melancholy. My body ached with every ounce of emotion that was poured into these words. I could not stop reading and at the same time wanted to savor every bit and not let it end. 

This book is just beautiful. The story, the characters, the heartaches, the love, all of it. I felt myself in the story just like Emilie saw herself in Pablo’s painting. I wish I could say more, but all I really know is I loved it.
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Nina LaCour has been one of my favorite contemporary authors for encompassing the human and complex emotions of living life and dealing with love. 

I read the description of this book and expected to fall in love with this book, but what I did not expect is to go through such a heart wrenching experience.

I highly recommend this book to everyone looking for the cathartic release and a happy ending.
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Thank you to Flatiron books for access to Yerba Buena. I’ve never held an ARC so dear. This review was difficult to write because I’m not sure my words can convey how special this book is. All I can recommend is you pick it up yourself in 2022 and let me live vicariously through your first reading. 

Yerba Buena is a story of love, loss, heartbreak, and growth following the lives of Sara and Emilie, two women who experienced separate but devastating experiences in adolescence. Yerba Buena is a love story, but more than that it is an authentic story of second chances and letting go. 

I think it’s safe to say I’m a fan of Nina LaCour and a huge sucker for a grief story. This book did not disappoint. LaCour’s writing is a somatic experience -- how precious it is to read a book I can feel in my belly and hold in my heart. I think it’s difficult to conceptualize the weight of this novel and I’ve been thinking about this review for several days. It’s entirely human, holding both the anxious and the audacious in all of us.
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*3.25 stars

I’ve enjoyed Nina LaCour’s writing for some time now, but admittedly I haven’t kept up much with her recent works, so hearing about Yerba Buena was an exciting surprise. Following her shift from young adult to adult writing feels oddly fitting and personal—I first read one of her novels as a young teenager, maybe even a pre-teen, and now I too am, at least legally, an adult. Unfortunately, though Yerba Buena is poignant and beautiful, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

Writing-wise is where the novel primarily shines—it’s been some time now since I last read LaCour’s earlier pieces, so I can’t really recall enough to compare (not that I would be too inclined to if I could), but her style here reads very cleanly and smoothly. Each sentence flowed well, and there was a definite neat balance of showing and telling. The writing is somewhat subdued and laidback, if looked at as a whole, but that adds to the general quiet warmth Yerba Buena exudes.

In substance, Yerba Buena does have a great deal to offer. It’s a very human work, driven by character and emotion. The handling of trauma and healing in particular is very thoughtful and compelling. A great deal of heavy subject matter is present—some of which I wish I had known about in advance, though it fortunately doesn’t affect me too severely—but it’s treated with care, and the note on which things end is a soothing yet realistic one. There is closure, but it is acknowledged and shown that recovery isn’t a simple, linear process. I do wish that some things and their aftermath had been touched upon more, but I’m overall satisfied with how these themes are depicted.

While romance ends up being an important element in Yerba Buena’s narrative, I’d actually hesitate to classify it as a romance outright, which I consider a positive. Its focus ends up primarily just being people’s lives and bonds, including but not elevating romantic relationships. The portrayal of complicated family relationships, from loving to distant to both at once, was interesting and engaging as well.

To speak on the romance in specific, though: Sara and Emilie’s dynamic is very understated and well-written. It doesn’t actually feel like the “star-crossed” type of connection the blurb cites, just two troubled people who have managed to find each other and choose to work toward a relationship, which is super refreshing and nice to see. It’s a fairly minor thing to take note of, but I also liked that it was far from either’s first relationship (even if I have mixed opinions on Emilie’s prior romances). The development itself is a little rushed, but it slows effectively enough to appreciate and enjoy. With a tad more buildup, it would definitely rank as one of the best relationships I’ve seen in fiction as of late.

Getting involved in the characters’ lives and stories was easy enough, but ultimately, I feel that I lack understanding of who they truly are. Their hardships and struggles well outweigh the softer, quieter moments, which makes their exact characterization hard to get a grasp on. This is perhaps the point, as finding identity is a major theme, but it kept me from investing in full. There are some side characters I wish had been delved deeper into as well; though the cast is broad enough in theory, no particular characters are really explored in great detail. With how character-driven the novel is, this is likely its most glaring flaw.

The pacing also felt a bit strained in places; I had some trouble keeping up with the timeline, although this admittedly could have been on my part more so than the book’s, as I got through it far faster than I expected or planned. I did like that certain backstory scenes established early on were embellished upon later, but I’m not certain that their actual inclusion to open the novel was the most effective choice. Some loose ends remain by the conclusion as well, but I wasn’t actually especially bothered by most.

Yerba Buena is a well-written piece with a number of intriguing themes and things to say, but I found it to fall flat in some areas. I enjoyed my time with it—perhaps a bit too much, if my reading speed is anything to go by—but ultimately was not able to take as much from it as I anticipated.

Representation: WLW protagonists; mixed (Creole, Black/white) protagonist and family
CWs: Grief, death (including death of relatives and child death; brief descriptions of bodies), drug abuse/addiction (non-graphic overdose; underage drinking and drug use in passing), pedophilia/CSA, mild sexual content, infidelity, missing person, terminal illness, medical content (caretaking of a terminally ill relative, including hospice care; hospital scene), blood/injury, minor/implied racism and homophobia
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God, this is BEAUTIFUL. It absolutely gutted me. LaCour is a master at writing meaningful human emotions, and Yerba Buena is no exception here. I cannot recommend this enough.
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I've been a fan of Nina Lacour's YA work for forever, and her debut adult novel is just as poignant, beautiful, and heart wrenching as I'm used to. I read this book in a day, not because it was a fast and easy read, but because I couldn't put it down.
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The story of 2 women whose lives keep intersecting. Both are coming from alienating home lives, and find employment at an LA restaurant called Yerba Buena. They move up in their fields, one as a server and one as a florist delivering and arranging flowers at the restaurant. They fall in love.

It is probably an excellent book for 20-somethings exploring their first jobs out on their own, and coming to terms with the ways of the world in tandem with their identities.
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As a teenager, Sara runs away from her home in northern California to escape a difficult family situation and the loss of her girlfriend. Emilie is looking for somewhere to call home, and someone to make her feel less alone. They both find themselves drawn to an L.A. restaurant called Yerba Buena, where Sara ends up bartending and Emilie arranges flowers. And despite the things pulling them apart, they also find themselves drawn to each other.

This is a quiet, thoughtful, beautiful novel about trauma, healing, and finding yourself through connecting with others. The writing is phenomenal. It's definitely more character than plot driven and it took me a while to settle into it, but by the end, I was completely enraptured by Sara and Emilie's story. It definitely lives up to that incredible cover!!
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I have read and  loved a lot of her YA books and this one is her best books! Her books have a great blend of sad and  sweet moments - it makes for a book that’s hard not to love. I worried that the ending would disappoint me because I loved the book very early on but I’m happy to say that this book is great from start to finish! Please go out and read it. Then read all her other books 😀
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To be fair, I am a Nina LaCour fan and could not wait to read this book. I absolutely loved it. The way the stories of the two main characters overlap is excellent. They have similar wounds, but express them in such different ways that they almost act as repellent magnets, meeting and then pushing away from each other. There was a great push-pull and reckoning with family in both stories. 

The only quibble I have with YERBA BUENA was, well, the use of Yerba Buena. It felt very heavy-handed and was used so much that it lost its effect. The restaurant name, the herb, the drink, and more... it was overkill. Otherwise, the characters, the settings, the relationships... they were outstanding. 

I am also looking forward to recommending this to students who have read previous novels by LaCour and are ready for something more "grown up." It's also a good way for them to see how the same writer approaches YA vs.  stories geared for "adults." It will be a way to help show my writing students how they can grow their writing as well as how a writer can use nuance to connect with specific, intended audiences.
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I was not the biggest fan of this, but I think it is because I am definitely growing out of the young adult genre. I am more of a romance reader now.
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First things first, I wish I'd looked up trigger warnings before starting the book. The beginning is very heavy. TW: death, drugs/drug overdose, missing persons, statutory rape

And yet, somehow, this book is a quiet book. It's told in third person but leans heavily towards narration and inner monologue over dialogue. It's about two girls growing into women and coming into themselves, dealing with trauma and hardships, and falling in love.

I love Nina LaCour's writing, and it's the main thing that kept my attention. The characters were likable enough, but there wasn't much I cared about here, besides the gorgeous writing. It probably would have been a DNF for me if written by anyone other than Nina. But from Nina, it's 4 stars. I don't think I'd ever do a reread, but it was an overall enjoyable experience.
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The story is told in alternating chapters between Emilie and Sara. Sara Foster runs away from home at sixteen and heads to LA, where she becomes a much sought after bartender with a knack for creating brilliant cocktails. Emilie grew up in LA and is stuck adrift. She’s in her seventh year and fifth major as an undergraduate. The two women's lives intertwine but for reasons outside of their control they are separated time and again. This is a beautiful and richly told story. I really enjoyed knowing both sides of Sara and Emilie’s love story. They were both flawed individuals, who continually worked to make themselves better. Admittedly, some parts were hard to read. Adults who fail children make me angry, but this was written in a way that the characters didn’t focus on the crap hand they were dealt with. Beautiful prose throughout and a lovely story about finding ones place in the world and surrounding yourself with people who build you up and love you unconditionally. Thank you to Net Galley, Flatiron Books, and Nina LaCour for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
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This is the first time I’ve read a book by this author, and I now get what all the talk was about.  I will be reading more!  I could see this book as a young adult book also as the characters are young when we meet them and I’m curious to see how the books labeled YA differ from this one.  

This is such a very well written story.  I loved these girls, and they will stay with me for a long time. Such interesting people with different careers and interests.  I think they are both great representations of young women without the usual boring types of jobs and activities.   Both are well developed realistic characters who develop over the course of the book and become mature, self-aware women.

The plot moves along at a good pace without any dragging, but I would consider this more of a character driven narrative.  I did find it a bit repetitious where backstories were related when we, the readers, already knew the facts relayed. 

I enjoyed Nina’s style of writing; easy but beautiful.  There is a sensory level of detail that entertains and creates a wonderful picture without any of the tedium I often dislike in descriptive writing.  The contrasting locations of rural northern California and urban Los Angeles set the two opposing scenes perfectly.  The other characters we meet are multi-dimensional, no bad vs good guys.   I thought this was very clever; even the guy who might be considered the evil one is redeemed a bit in the end.  

I loved the drink recipes and the flower bouquets.  The art involved in house flipping was very interesting.  This is so much more than a romance.  It’s a coming-of-age novel where each character grows enough to be able to enter into a healthy relationship despite early inner and outer obstacles. 

This is a clever, innovative book and I look forward to more from this author as I catch up on her backlist.  

Thanks for introducing me and thanks to Nina LaCour, NetGalley and Flatiron.
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This was very different from what I expected from the description. It was much more melancholy, and much more beautiful. While definitely romantic, the book was not a romance but a two-character bildungsrman, focusing less on the romance between Emilie and Sata and more on their characters, experiences, and growth as individuals, and how their experiences cause them to relate to each other and the world. It was lovely.
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Nina LaCour writes heartfelt and heartbreaking stories about people finding each other through all kinds of life's tragedies. Yerba Buena is a beautiful LGBGQ+ romance and, ultimately, a story of two women trying to move beyond life's painful memories. Yerba Buena is a the healing herb, and its presence in both of the women's lives is what ultimately connects them together. 

I don't want to give much more of the plot away, so I will just say that if you are not yet a fan of Nina LaCour-- you should be. While some of her other books skew more young adult, this one feels meant for adults. It's beautiful writing, lovable characters, and an immersive story told in multiple perspectives.
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