Cover Image: Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena

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Member Reviews

Found this book really interesting. It follows two characters that encounter each other, one who's a waitress and one who has lost her mother. I loved how each character was fully realized and three-dimensional, yet were able to compliment each other. 
I also appreciated the fast pace of the book and finished it in one sitting. I really enjoyed this overall.
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Yerba Buena surprised me because apart from the sapphic romance I didn’t think I’d enjoy it too much, especially as a contemporary. However, I really loved that it was character-based, and how it was less focused on the romance and more on their development particularly Emilie.
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I've been holding off writing this review because I needed to sit with my feelings on this one. Which seems apt for a Nina LaCour novel.

In my experience, when YA authors publish their adult debut, it can either go horribly wrong or terrifically right. In the chase of Yerba Buena, it went mostly right.

The book follows two young women, Emilie and Sara, who are the definition of right person, wrong time. Sara ran away from home as a teenager because her town suffers a drug problem and her secret girlfriend / best friend died. Meanwhile, Emilie switches from college major to college major, unsure of what to do with her life. Both end up in LA and meet in the restaurant Yerba Buena, where Sara is a bartender and Emilie works as a florist. They feel an instant connection, but Emilie is having an affair with the married restaurant owner. As for Sara, her past is catching up with her.

In Yerba Buena, the characters shone. While reading, it was obvious LaCour employed a lot of her own memories while writing Emilie's character. LaCour, like Emilie, has Creole family and this experience grounded the story and made the writing more palatable. Although I liked both the main characters, Emilie's arc felt more relatable to me. Being a little lost and without purpose is something everyone has experienced in their lifetime. Aimlessness in your twenties is a universal experience, yet one that LaCour conveyed well in Yerba Buena.

Sara's story was far more dark and my reading experience of this part is difficult to describe. I went from shocked to heartbroken to resigned. Still, I couldn't warm up to Sara's character, although I felt for her.

Therefore, while I enjoyed both character arcs, they did not mix. Sara and Emilie only cross paths at the halfway point of the book. They get together far later. When they first meet, they have an instant connection, this sense of being destined to meet. LaCour portrayed it as this revelatory moment. Yet to me, their romance seemed shallow and rushed. I just couldn't picture why those characters liked each other so much beyond physical attraction. They did not challenge each other or make each other grow. There were no sparks or chemistry. As a love story, this book failed.

I previously read and loved LaCour's YA books, Everything Leads to You and We Are Okay, which raised my expectations a lot. The former is a cute, summery rom-com about a filmmaker and an actress while We Are Okay is sadder in tone and shows a teen handling grief and trauma. I adored both books. Everything Leads to You introduced me to sapphic rom-coms as a young teen, which was a complete novelty to me. I didn't know these books existed. I didn’t know they were possible. It was revelatory. Therefore, LaCour introduced me to a completely new genre. For that, I will always be thankful.

Today, I love sapphic romance books. With this in mind, Yerba Buena exhibited neither the playfulness of Everything Leads to You nor the devastating grief and heartbreak of We are Okay. The book wasn't a romance, but it was not literary fiction either. Still, LaCour examined trauma and grief in a way that still leaves you on a hopeful note instead of an emotionally devastated one.

To summarize, my feelings about Yerba Buena are complicated but still gave it 4/5 stars. Reviewing Nina LaCour books is hard. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review.
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This story grew on mi with every page. I absorbed little nuggets of information, thinking of them as irrelevant, to later discover their significance to the story.

"Yerba Buena" is a saphic romance, which does justice to both parties. As readers, we get to know the stories that shaped Sara and Emilie with all their complexity. While reading, we actually understand the motivations behind these women's decisions and actions. Which also makes for a great ending, that filled me with both sadness, and joy.

Nina LaCour masterfully moves between Emilie's and Sara's narratives, showcasing certain events from two points of view. Thanks to this trope, we understand how the same events can be interpreted in many different ways and how individual experiences influence the takeaway. As an author, she also understands the impact of trauma on person's decisions and is able to weave it naturally into the story.

This was my first book by this author and certainly I will explore more of LaCour's writing after reading "Yerba Buena".
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To me, this is what romance is.

Romance is not something that comes and erases every part that we are. it is complementary. it can enhance everyday life or it can be destructive. it can be the main reason of happiness or just one of the many! There is no right or wrong as long as all parties involved feel good and are respected and trusted. So yes, this is a romance novel for me (answering to some of the reviews that say that the book was falsely marketed, I disagree).

Yerba Buena has a romance plot to its core but that is not what defines the characters. S and E have lives, complex backgrounds, fears and baggage that interfere sometimes with them getting to know each other and form a relationship. When there is miscommunication there is a REASONING for it, it is portrayed as truly unintentional or circumstantial and not just 'oh I am afraid to say how I feel with no reason whatsoever other than 'oh what will the other person think'. sorry If I sound cynical, I am just tired of unrealistic depictions of romance, and  although rom coms are great,  each subgenre has its place and Nina LaCour writes within the realism realm which I truly appreciate.

Having read *We are not Okay' some years ago, I was expecting a lyrical, painfully gut punching language which I felt lacked in the first part of the book which knocked this one down to 4 stars instead of 5. The beginning of the book felt like there was a lot to say a lot to inform the reader about brushing off three scenes in particular that had me eye rolling (with no spoilers, the scenes were: 1. dad drawing, 2. random boy meeting and follow up, 3. teens acquiring money fast in X way.) I wanted to have those themes explored more, understand why they chose to do them, talk about them, ponder on them which for some happens much later but for others they just vanish in the void and so in my head were deemed unnecessary to begin with, shock factor aside.

We explore dysfunctional families and their respective dynamics, characters with dreams and 'flaws' with childhood trauma haunting them and their future life choices and lifestyle. I will stop there regarding the plot as I feel I would give away things. Well one more point is that..

I loved the ending, loved it! so fitting and beautifully executed with so many quotes I would love to include but can't as it would give a lot away.

Some quotes I can include though are as follows:

'They didnt have comfortable, familiar silences'

'The strange sadness of looking at beauty that no longer moved her'.

'the pleasure felt pleasurable for the first time in ages.' ... ' And yet it frightened her when it was over. No emptiness this time. It frightened her how open her heart was'.

Family, loneliness, grief and feeling lost are themes that are explored in this book, and of course romantic attraction and everything that comes along with it when two people's worlds collide.

Nina LaCour is talented. Attentive to the world around her that she described with seemingly simple words but in a way that evokes the deepest of feelings. Thank you,Nina, for touching my soul that way.

And how I wish I could have one of S's drinks!

Thank you Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton. for the e-copy of Yerba Buena!
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This was something different from LaCour. Still the several hard hitting topics, definitly look up some trigger warnings. But it was well done I think and I flew through it.
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Before diving into "Yerba Buena", I had only read one other Nina LaCour book, and while I liked it, I didn't consider it anything too special. However, this one left me speechless. 
LaCour created these two fantastic characters, Sara and Emilie, that I was able to related to so immensely and deeply. The way she writes loneliness and grief, about being lost and finding yourself over and over again, it's amazing. 
There is one specific part where Emilie's life is about to change as she leaves the apartment she's been in for a long time, and there are some descriptions of how she's always meant to change things in it and then life caught up to her. and I am sure that will resonate with so many young people.
This was Nina LaCour's first adult novel, and I can't help but hoping she never stops.
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Thank you to NetGalley, Hodden and Nina LaCour for this advanced copy! 

This was my first Nina LaCour book and it definitely will not be my last. I've been seeing this all over bookstagram lately and everyone seems to be big fans! After finishing it, I can see why. 

This is a beautiful, beautiful book! The writing in it is stunning. The story of two women, who both have completely separate lives and pasts, just so happen to come together by chance but will it work out for them?! I liked this a lot more than I expected too which is always a plus! The characters, the food, the drinks, the description of nature and life, the writing is just so pretty! In terms of plot though, I felt it a little empty at times. It feels like not a huge amount happens, even though there is. I did like the dual timeline and switching of POVs because, let's be honest, it's a great combination! 

Such a fab book and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to read this arc! Definitely one for a sunny day and a cocktail in hand! 

*Please research any trigger warnings before reading*
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Yerba Buena is a slow-burner of a novel, gradually drawing you into the lives of the two main characters. 

Sara and Emilie each have their own demons and challenges to face. From the ghosts of the past to the difficulties of the present, neither has an easy life. However, when they are together, it becomes all too easy to escape the bad and enjoy only the good - for a little while, at least. 

The story is told in a fragmented style, mixing past and present in a way that is quite disjointed. As the girls' lives slowly begin to twine together, their past also blends until in some ways, it's difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. It can be quite hard to get into the story but it's worth persevering, as the story definitely grows on you once you become used to the writing style. 

At its core, this is a love story; an inexorable journey from that first meeting to the rest of forever. However, what's unique is that it isn't written to feel like a love story. There's no budding romance, no romantic cliches, and no obvious happily ever after. Instead, it's gritty, down-to-earth, and refreshingly real. 

Emilie and Sara are complex, flawed individuals. Both bear scars from their past, as well as damage that isn't quite so easy to see at first glance. Despite their struggles, though, they are both stronger than they realise. Sara is a fighter, doggedly determined to escape the skeletons in her closet. Emilie grows tired of being a passive spectator in her own life and at long last, finds the passion she needs to reignite her own drive and determination. These young women find a little bit of themselves in each other and together, they might just have the power to overcome the past once and for all. 

Yerba Buena is a rich, complex literary novel that will give you plenty of food for thought.
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Sara runs away from home at age sixteen, after a big event. She leaves behind the person she used to be. Years later, she’s working as a well known bartender in Los Angeles. Across town, Emilie is finding it hard to commit to anything and to navigate life. She takes a job as a flower arranger in the restaurant Yerba Buena, where she starts up an affair with the owner.

I think I went into it with a bit of the wrong expectations. I thought this was a straight up romance going in, and it isn’t. It’s a lot more literary and is a look at these two women and their lives over an extended period of time.

I really love Lacour’s writing and I’m glad I have two other books of hers on my shelf that I can read.

I liked how this book progressed and wrapped up. Sara and Emilie are intertwined in their love and their loss. Even though they may drift apart after experiencing hard times they always find each other again in the end.
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In a Nutshell: A slow-burn, coming-of-age, queer literary fiction. The characters are well-developed. But the romance is not the star of the show, unlike what the official genre says. I don’t think this book will click with everyone.

Story Synopsis:
After young Sara’s love life comes to a sudden end, she runs away from her home in Northern California to LA, hoping for a fresh start. With a lot of hard work and some personal compromises, she finally makes a name for herself in a successful restaurant.
Emilie, a Creole whose family originally came from New Orleans, is confused about what she wants to do in life. She takes a job arranging flowers for a restaurant, until the owner notices her and woos her.
When Sara and Emilie meet each other, the connection is immediate but their circumstances are such that they can’t speak openly to one another. How will Sara and Emilie bridge over the hurts of their past? Will they be able to put aside their insecurities in the hope of a joint future? Read and find out.
The story comes to us in the third person perspectives of Sara and Emilie.

Where the book worked for me:
✔ Great representation – one MC is a Black bisexual, the other is a lesbian. Some more LGBTQ characters in the story.
✔ “Yerba Buena”, Spanish for "good herb", is used so many times and so well in the story. Right from a hotel name to the actual use of the herb to the symbolic role played by the herb in the characters’ lives, the title pops up again and again.
✔ There are too many characters at the start but the way they are written made their identities pretty clear. I didn’t have any confusion about who was who.
✔ The ending is beautiful.

Where the book still worked for me but might not work for other readers:
⚠ The pacing is extremely slow. I was prepared for this as it is a literary fiction, but those who like quick reads and loads of action won’t enjoy the writing.
⚠ The book is marked as a romance on Goodreads as well as Netgalley, but it is not at all a fit for this genre. A better description would have been a coming-of-age drama, but this would have collided with the promo declaring this book to be Nina LaCour’s first adult fiction novel. I am not too fond of OTT romance, so the lack of romance didn’t bother me at all. But if you are looking at this mainly for the romance, you won’t get it until much later in the story, and then too, in small instalments.
⚠ The book is clearly literary fiction, and the story is strongly character-oriented. Those who prefer plot-oriented stories won’t enjoy this kind of writing.
⚠ This is not an easy read and some of the scenes are quite traumatic. Sensitive readers or those in a low mental space might do better to stay away from this dark story.

Where the book could have worked better for me:
❌ Sara’s and Emilie’s story lines comes to us in alternate chapters but their timelines in the first half of the novel isn’t the same. This makes the story confusing until their tracks merge. Even afterwards, there is a back and forth in the timeframe. I would have appreciated better time references, like maybe a month/year mention at the start of the chapter.
❌ I didn’t feel close to any of the characters, which is quite surprising for a literary fiction. It felt like they were always on the other side of the glass and I was just watching them without worrying about them.

All in all, the writing and the characters hooked me, though the lack of connect and the slow pace deterred me from rating this higher. Still, it is a poignant story and those who like their fiction on the darker side of the emotional array will like this coming-of-age novel for adults. Just remember not to look at it as a romance. I would certainly like to read more books by this author.
3.75 stars.

My thanks to Hodder & Stoughton, Coronet, and NetGalley for the DRC of “Yerba Buena”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.
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Sara and Emilie are written in such a way which makes you feel like you know them. You get to see them from teenage years to there late twenties. You see them at there triumphs and you get to see them at there lowest.

The book is filled emotion and is beautifully written. 
This was my first Nina LaCour book but it will not be my last!

This book for gifted by netgalley however all views are my own.
*please look at trigger warning before reading
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Thank you to NetGally for the ARC of Yerba Buena in exchange of my honest review.

Yerbabuena by Nina LaCour is the story of Sara and Emilie. A story about finding yourself, confronting your past and falling in love at first sight. A book full of humanity and heart that introduces us to two real, vulnerable, damaged, and strong women. An adult love story for our lost and hectic generation.

I’ve enjoyed this book a lot. It was an easy reading even though the writer addresses deep and intense themes like trauma, drug misuse, sex abuse and losing a loved one. I felt a real connection to both characters and wanted to know more about their pasts and lives. Even when the romance started halfway into the book, the relationship was passionate and heart-warming. I don’t usually enjoy the love-at-first-sight trope but this one felt like a true soulmate connection.

My favourite part of the book were the characters, Emilie in particular. The author wrote the most relatable character. A character that belongs to this generation: lost, full of doubts and without any idea about what to do with her life. We travel with her through her fears and nightmares, discovering her true passion and the meaning of her life. This journey isn’t easy but it’s 100% worth it. Emilie grows a lot in 300 pages showing the reader the real meaning of family, friendship, and love.  

The only thing I didn’t enjoy as much was the ending. It’s difficult to explain without spoilers but I was expecting more from the main characters and their relationship. The ending felt rushed and quick for me.

Overall, this is a book I would recommend to anyone who is feeling a bit lost in life. It will make you feel less alone and more understood. You will laugh and cry and you will want to visit Los Angeles as soon as possible. If you have the chance, pick this book from your bookstore, library, etc because it’s the perfect summer reading.

Rating 3.5/5
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This is my first foray into Nina LaCour's work and I can't wait to discover her back catalogue after reading Yerba Buena. It's a spare, unflinching novel that is simultaneously full of tenderness and heart. 
The novel is about two young women, Sara and Emilie, who fall in love. It's more than just a love story though - the novel tracks these two women throughout family tragedies & personal traumas, building a richly detailed picture of two lives that collide in the middle. It's certainly not a plotty novel but an excellent one to wallow in as you get to know the characters. 

The prose is refined and expansive without being flowery - it's clear that the author has written for younger audiences in her crystal-clear dialogue, but it never feels too simple either. The descriptive nature of the writing is fantastic - much of the book circles around art and food and these are as richly detailed as the relationship at its centre. 

It is maybe a little formulaic and don't go into it expecting loads of plot, but as a diverting summer read that will give you all the feels, as they say, you won't go wrong with Yerba Buena.
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Yerba Buena by Nina LeCour is a contemporary love story that blends family relationships, past mistakes and emotional discovery, resulting in a beautiful novel of heartbreak, forgiveness  and enduring love. Emilie and Sara's relationship is honest, at times painfully raw, but above all believable, and LaCour writes with confidence, deftly navigating her characters through the challenges of modern life.
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First of all, the cover is stunning! There are some beautiful passages of writing in this novel and the descriptions of Yerba Buena, the restaurant were excellent - I really wanted to eat and drink there. It's a pleasant read but for me the characterisation was rushed and shallow which prevented me from fully connecting to the characters and the instant attraction between Sara and Emilie.
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In short, it's the story of two women finding their way in the world. With all the hardship and struggles life has to offer.

I really enjoy Nina LaCour’s writing and how developed and real her characters feel. It makes every scene involving grief and loss hit that much harder and every  joyous moment that more meaningful.

Getting to know Sara, Emilie and the various people that shaped their lives along the way was great. And although I got confused by the time jumps once or twice it was interesting to read about all the obstacles life tossed at them and how they got together in the end. Which makes me sad to say that their chemistry somehow fell flat for me. 

Nevertheless the author hits truths that are (or at least should be) our core desires in life. From our basic desires to be loved to everybody wanting to find their place in the world and belong but also our fear and subsequent desire for someone to see us at our worst and choose to be there in spite of it.

And now I definitely want to plant Yerba Buena [Clinopodium douglasii] in my garden.
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I loved this book so much! The prose was hauntingly beautiful and the characters realistic and vulnerable. 

It felt real in a way books seldom do, I could picture Sara and Emilie in my head, somewhere in this world. Living, hurting, loving. Even though there a lot of dark themes dealt with in this story (please check trigger warnings before you read, especially if you're not currently in a good place mentally), but still everything felt so soft. The writing, the places, the people. The hard things as well.

This story is at times nostalgic, always bittersweet, always fleeting. And the ending, to me, was perfect and real. The true ending of a story like this, of people like Sara and Emilie.

This is not a romance in the traditional publishing sense, but it is a love story. And it is beautiful.

Also, a moment please for this gorgeous, gorgeous cover that captures the essence of the book perfectly!

(Thank you to NetGalley, Nina LaCour and Hodder & Stoughton, Coronet for providing me with an eARC for this book in exchange for my honest feedback. All opinions in this review are my own.)
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Firstly, thanks so much to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. This book is published on May 31st and I would highly recommend!
I went into this book completely blind after being accepted for the book months ago and had no idea what to expect and found it so intriguing to see where the storyline was going without having an idea going into it. I loved both main characters, Sara and Emilie, and felt myself empathising with them throughout the entirety of their story. It was so lovely to see how these two women who had both been through so much in their lives were brought together by their love of Yerba Buena. The writing was absolutely beautiful and some parts were gut wrenching to read but it was also thoroughly enjoyable overall to read because of the way it was written.
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Full of tenderness and underlying pain, much as we've come to expect from Nina LaCour. It was certainly written beautifully and kept me intrigued. I particularly wanted to know what was going on in Sara's past, and how she'd heal from the hardship. But it was missing that spark for me. Maybe it just never goes deep enough. I never ended up caring as much as I should have and that's the one thing I wouldn't expect with this author. Diverting and layered but nothing stuck with me.
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