Review: Yerba Buena by Nina LaCour

The debut adult novel by the bestselling and award-winning YA author Nina LaCour, following two women on a star-crossed journey toward each other

green, flower


When Sara Foster runs away from home at sixteen, she leaves behind not only the losses that have shattered her world but the girl she once was, capable of trust and intimacy. Years later, in Los Angeles, she is a sought-after bartender, renowned as much for her brilliant cocktails as for the mystery that clings to her. Across the city, Emilie Dubois is in a holding pattern. In her seventh year and fifth major as an undergraduate, she yearns for the beauty and community her Creole grandparents cultivated but is unable to commit. On a whim, she takes a job arranging flowers at the glamorous restaurant Yerba Buena and embarks on an affair with the married owner.

When Sara catches sight of Emilie one morning at Yerba Buena, their connection is immediate. But the damage both women carry, and the choices they have made, pulls them apart again and again. When Sara’s old life catches up to her, upending everything she thought she wanted just as Emilie has finally gained her own sense of purpose, they must decide if their love is more powerful than their pasts.

At once exquisite and expansive, astonishing in its humanity and heart, Yerba Buena is a love story for our time and a propulsive journey through the lives of two women finding their way in the world.4

My thoughts

As I am sitting here trying to formulate the words I want to use in my review, I see the last paragraph of the synopsis and I do not agree with it. Yerba Buena is not a love story for our time. It is a fantastic story of two different women’s journeys that intersect and not so much in a good way according to the ending written by Nina LaCour

Let me give you a spoiler alert: This is a happily-for-right-now ending. I really wish LaCour hadn’t added the caveat of what is to come of unhappiness and ended with Sara and Emilie getting together. Instead, LaCour gives us real-life and says yeah, they are good for right now, but they are human, and their issues don’t resolve.

There is a lot of baggage to be held by both parties in this relationship. Sara’s story is tough. Her struggle moves us through homelessness, desperation, and family troubles. Her tale is heart-breaking. Then there is Emilie who has a completely different upbringing and has completely different internal issues. Their attraction is immediate, but that does not mean romance comes easily. Nor does it last. 

LaCour takes us through the wringer in Yerba Buena. Their stories are incredible and I loved reading it. The problem is me. I love happy endings. I want the happily-ever-after because let’s face it: life sucks. I wish LaCour hadn’t added the extra information about their relationship. It doesn’t change the impact of each of these characters’ journeys, but now I wish they had found other people so that they could have a happily-ever-after instead of ending up with people who aren’t the best for them. 

LaCour gives us women who become worthy of themselves. I love their individual journeys. Yerba Buena is totally worth the read just for the fiction itself. Forget about the romance if you can (kind of like how I read about the affair with the restaurant owner). This story, their stories, is worth the read.

I received this book for free in a Goodreads Giveaway and give my opinion without prejudice and voluntarily.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Meet the Author: Nina LaCour

Nina LaCour is the Michael L. Printz Award-winning and nationally bestselling author of six young adult novels, including Watch Over Me and We Are Okay; the children’s book Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle; and Yerba Buena, a novel for adults. She’s on faculty at Hamline University’s MFA in writing for Children and Young Adults program, and teaches an online class of her own called The Slow Novel Lab. A former indie bookseller and high school English teacher, she lives with her family in San Francisco.4

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Further Details:

Published by: Flatiron Books, 9781250810465, May 2022
Cover Design by:
Edited by:
Narrated by: Julia Whelan
Settings: California, U.S.
Pages: 298
Secondary Characters include: Lesbian, Gay


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