Cover Image: Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena

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Member Reviews

Nina LaCour has written one of my favorite books of all time “We Are Okay”, so of course when “Yerba Buena” was announced, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I devoured this book in one sitting. This beautiful novel talks about love and trauma, and LaCour does this through two of the most unique characters ever, Sara and Emilie. These two women are so different yet so similar in so many ways. 

In “Yerba Buena”, Nina LaCour uses her beautiful prose to describe scarring events and how to deal with them. She uses her words to portray two powerful women and their struggles, their love, and their journey.
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This book is:
A hot cup of mint tea with just a drop of honey.
Sun on your face through a window.
Eating on the patio on the first warm day of spring when the breeze still carries a chill.
The soreness and satisfaction of ripping down all of the wallpaper.
A cocktail that’s just medicinal or bitter enough you feel compelled to take another sip.

My only sadness is that I’ll never be able to read Yerba Buena for the first time again.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it here: no one writes grief better than Nina LaCour. 

This book is beautiful, hopeful, and heartfelt. With soaring but meticulous prose, LaCour depicts broken people learning how to love themselves and each other through loss, creation, and forgiveness.

A bildungsroman in parallel, Yerba Buena tells the story of two women; one who fears she’s easy to leave, and another who fears she’s easy to let go. 

After a tragic loss, Sara Foster leaves her home in the Russian River valley. She makes a fresh start in Los Angeles, becoming a rising star in the cocktail world. Emilie Dubois hasn’t quite figured out who she is yet, and has been trying college majors and jobs on for size when the pair cross paths at acclaimed restaurant, Yerba Buena.

Told in third person through chapters that alternate point of view and challenge linearity in story-telling, LaCour depicts how Sara and Emilie grow and learn together, and separately, and the ways that their histories, experiences, and beliefs inform all of their relationships, including their relationships with each other.

One of my favorite things about LaCour’s books is that she never allows the trauma, grief, or mental health struggles of her characters to be more than just a part of their story. All of the characters here are dynamic and most are redeemable.

As much as trauma, grief, loss, and sadness exists in this book, this too is a story primarily of queer joy. While one side character experiences challenges related to coming out, sexual orientation here is otherwise a non-event, and queer and straight relationships in this book are depicted as dynamic, complicated, and nuanced.

Yerba Buena is a symbol that ties it all together, of course in the name of the restaurant where Sara and Emilie meet, but also as a plant that has meaning in each woman’s distinct storylines.

Though this book is beautiful and an absolute triumph, there are also some dark themes. Content warnings include: substance abuse and overdose, traumatic loss, infidelity, commerical sexual exploitation, divorce, death of a parent (off page), death of a grandparent, mention of a cult, foster care.

I'm not going to stop thinking about or talking about this one all year.  All the stars.
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Yerba Buena is a powerful novel about grief, family, love and finding your passion. I love Nina LaCour, but I don't think this is her strongest novel. It is still very much a worthwhile read.
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First of all, thank you so, SO much to Netgalley and Flatiron Books for giving me the chance to read Nina LaCour's first adult novel. I absolutely loved "Hold Still" when I read it and I new I was in for a treat when I got the notification that I had been approved for this. 

"Yerba Buena" follows two different protagonists in alternating perspectives. Sara Foster, who ran away to Los Angeles at the age of sixteen after a series of dramatic losses leaves her hollow. Emilie Dubois, who is trying to fill her own hollowness by finding a purpose in life. In adulthood, as a renowned bartender and florist respectively, they meet. It is posed as a story of two characters finding love, but it is so much more than that. It is the story of two people reckoning with the horrors of their past and growing from them. It is a story of healing even when it seems impossible.

I absolutely loved our main characters and their stories. They were saw raw and so incredibly human, and I often felt their words and thoughts deep within the crevices of my being. They made me laugh and they made me cry. Never have I read a book where I can relate to the characters on such a fundamental level. Never have I read a book where I felt so strongly about the characters receiving an ending they deserve.

The descriptions and overall prose, as always, were absolutely gorgeous. They used so much imagery, played so heavily on the senses that I could see, smell, taste everything that Nina LaCour put on the page. Excuse me while I try to make fillet aperitif in real life.

Nina LaCour has truly done it again. While I loved Hold Still, I can safely say this book is my favorite of hers and I'll never forget it for as long as I live. Please, if you get the chance to read this book, do it.

<b>Please note the following trigger warnings: addiction/drug and alcohol abuse, sexual assault/sex work of a minor, death</b>
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This was my first Nina LaCour novel and it was perfect. I loved everything of it, it is a calm and fresh novel but also full of heartwarming moments. Definitely a new favorite.
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Somehow both powerful and gentle, those book is a view into the merging of two lives. What makes this book so beautiful I'd how we grow to understand and care about our protagonists, Emilie and Sara, before we even see them meet. The slow burn of their relationship, the way the wtiting doesn't rush to reach any sort of climax or conclusion, is one of this book's greatest strengths. LaCour's first adult novel is a must-read because it tackles darker subject material with her same comforting and gorgeous writing style. 

I am a huge fan of Nina LaCour and this book did not disappoint. I will be buying a copy when it is published. This book is perfect for people who love lgbtq+ romances, beautiful slow character arcs, and dark subject material with optimistic undertones.
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This is the adult debut of YA author Nina LaCour, and it is a lovely, moving story of two women and their individual life paths that eventually lead to each other. Sara and Emilie each have their share of personal trauma, and I loved how LaCour wrote her characters' emotional development. She is a master at bringing out deep emotions in her characters and relationships while writing a seemingly simple story. Despite jumps in the timeline, I was fully immersed and invested in the novel from beginning to end. Thank you to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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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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