Review: Nina LaCour's 'Yerba Buena' is a Powerful Work With Masterfully Illustrated Themes

by Christopher Verleger

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday June 3, 2022

Review: Nina LaCour's 'Yerba Buena' is a Powerful Work With Masterfully Illustrated Themes

"Yerba Buena," the first novel for adults from renowned young adult novelist Nina LaCour, is a powerful, profound work about the emotional journey of two women with complicated histories who are seemingly destined for each other.

Emilie DuBois and Sara Foster do not know each other, but they will. Shortly after the author first introduces Sara, the sixteen-year-old learns the secret object of her affection, Annie, has died tragically. Sara's father has an unsettling reaction to Annie's death, which causes her to run away from home, leaving behind her baby brother, Spencer. She eventually settles down in Los Angeles and makes a name for herself as a bartender, concocting exotic, mysterious cocktails.

Meanwhile, Emilie is a professional college student, unsure of what to do with her life, when she takes a job at a flower shop arranging displays. One of her clients is a favorite family restaurant from her childhood, Yerba Buena. Even though Emilie develops more than just a professional relationship with the owner, Jacob, one day she crosses paths with the establishment's bartender, Sara, and there's an instant, mutual attraction.

Each woman's story is told in alternating chapters, and while the anticipatory romance makes for its own quintessential page-turner, their individual narratives are fraught with gut-wrenching struggles, inspiring predicaments, and empowering triumphs. LaCour has crafted two captivating women who aren't always likable, but are unfailingly worthy of our attention.

Long before this star-crossed pair becomes acquainted, Sara is reunited with Spencer after their father gets arrested, whereas Emilie's sister, Colette, continuously battles drug addiction. Sara dreads returning to her hometown until circumstances leave her no choice, yet Emilie fortuitously finds a new career path when she is summoned back home to care for her ailing grandmother. When the two are finally in sync, a ghost of the past rears its ugly head, leaving both uncertain whether they have a future together.

"Yerba Buena" may not always be entirely believable, but it's definitely relatable with its masterfully illustrated themes of relationship obstacles, career uncertainties, and how our past experiences undoubtedly shape the present and our future.

"Yerba Buena" is available now from Flatiron Books.

Chris is a voracious reader and unapologetic theater geek from Narragansett, Rhode Island.