Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour

How do you choose your next read? I'm typically a mood reader. I choose whichever book strikes my fancy at any given moment. This strategy helps me from getting burned out on reading, but it also means that some books that I've agreed to review for publishers have to wait until I'm in the right mindset to read them. Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour is one such casualty. I received an ebook and audiobook of the novel well before it was published in May, but the queer coming-of-age story wasn't what I wanted to read then. I've been more about a quick-paced plot as of late, so thrillers have been my go-to read for the last couple of weeks. Still, I've found that books in that genre just aren't giving me the character development that I can latch on to.  So here I am, in the perfect mood to read a book like Yerba Buena. 

Sara is looking for an escape. She finally felt like she could accept herself when her secret girlfriend was found dead. Either unwilling or unable to cope with that loss at such a young age, Sara did what any enterprising teenager would do. She ran away from home. In her attempt to put the traumas of her past behind her, she encountered new ordeals that would haunt her into her future. All this is to say that Sara carried a lot of baggage as she entered adulthood. Years later she found a kind of safe haven and peace with her job as a bartender at the trendy restaurant Yerba Buena. It is here that her path would collide with Emilie, changing the trajectory of her life forever. 

Emilie is feeling stuck. She's been in college for seven years, cycling through five different majors only to feel as if she still hasn't found her path in life. Low on time, patience, and money, she randomly takes up a job with a flower shop. Emilie finds refuge in the task of floral arrangement, a process that allows her creativity to flourish while also earning her some much-needed money. As her obvious talent reveals itself, she is entrusted with arranging bouquets for different clients. One of these clients just so happens to be the restaurant Yerba Buena. 

Yerba Buena sees successful YA author Nina LaCour successfully transition to a work geared more for adult audiences. There are still echoes of her writing for younger readers, especially in moments that show the main characters before they are adults. In this case, that works to LaCour's benefit, imbuing the young characters with an authenticity that I was immediately able to connect with. The novel is as complex as the people who inhabit it, a work that tackles topics of sexuality, coming of age, and family trauma through layered scenarios, time periods, and relationships. This is a slow burn of a read. LaCour allows her story to unfold at a natural pace, freeing her characters and their emotions to dictate what comes next. This means that the characters, not the plot, drive the momentum of the novel. It was a bit of an adjustment for this seasoned thriller reader, but I was ultimately happy to have this change of pace. Yerba Buena works as an expertly written romance and coming-of-age story that brims with a purity that is rarely found in character-driven works. 

For more information visit the author's website, Amazon, and Goodreads

(2021, 32)

This entry was posted on Friday, August 5, 2022 and is filed under ,,,,,,,,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

3 Responses to “Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour”

  1. I totally get needing to be in the right mood to read certain books; I'm like that, too. And I'm glad you waited to read this one because it sounds like a really good story.

    1. The character work in this one is fantastic! It is something I really haven't found enough of in the thrillers I've been reading.

  2. Yes, sometimes my review books are waylaid because I'm just not in the mood for them even though the publishing date is looming. ARCs are nice, but having to read by a certain date is a drawback at times. It's nice that this had the character development you were looking for after action focused plots. I enjoy both as well!


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