... this is less a romance than a study of complex, modern love. Readers will have to be patient: After meeting for the first time, it takes a while before the two women connect again ... Understated and evocative, Yerba Buena takes two fractured people from two fractured families and explores the ways they fit together — and the ways they don’t. While Nina LaCour’s novel is not plot-driven, it has the most momentum when the characters are engaged in their goals or are pursuing their passions; Emilie’s move into house-flipping later in the story delivers satisfying results for both character and reader ... LaCour’s writing invites a willingness to notice small details and be comfortable in gray areas ... observed with a cool, generous eye in spare, quiet prose that expertly illuminates the trauma that Sara and Emilie are both wrestling with, as well as their hope and healing. Ultimately, this is quiet but beautiful character-driven fiction that lingers like a perfectly mixed cocktail.
A quiet love story ... It takes a while for the story to gain momentum as Sara and Emilie’s lives slowly chug through a collision course toward each other ... Many of the themes...will be familiar to those who have read LaCour’s young adult work, although here the details of these stories, particularly Sara’s, are more explicit, even bordering at times on gratuitous ... But once the women’s paths cross...the story finds its rhythm, unfolding like the slowly blossoming flavors of a well-made drink ... The book is a sensory feast, teeming with vivid detail ... LaCour is always assembling things that are more than the sums of their parts: a well-balanced cocktail; a perfectly spiced gumbo; a family, part biological and part chosen. Disparate elements come together to reveal themselves as a whole, bitter and salty and sweet all at once.
... isn’t easily categorised. For me, it turned out to be nothing like I expected and yet held me captive for the entirety of the book. At times, Yerba Buena read like a reluctant memoir, at others almost like an exorcism of ghosts of the past that haunted the characters ... Anyone who’s ever been haunted by their mistakes, their losses or their regrets will surely feel connected to these women ... Ultimately, what drew me to this book was that, as much as it seems to be about star-crossed lovers, it really focused more on trauma and grief ... What I really enjoyed about Yerba Buena was how it showed you how transient everything in life is only to follow it up with something that left a permanent impression you can’t really put into words. LaCour brings this ineffable feeling to every topic discussed in the story ... Its heavy themes are explored in excruciating detail but if you’re up for it, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with this heartbreaking yet rewarding story ... A true slice of life narrative, Nina La Cour’s adult debut Yerba Buena is a story of love and loss, family and friendship, of two women finding their way in the world—and each other. At times brutally honest and at others comforting and intimate, this story is perfect for anyone who has ever been kicked down by life only to get up again.
... generating a feeling that might best be described as complete safety in an author’s hands; you sense she understands her characters so well that you can sit back, sink in and trust the story ... The trouble with LaCour’s approach is that it takes a while for Sara and Emilie to come completely alive, even though their creator clearly knows them so well. You can feel their attraction to each other, but you can’t see them as individuals (this may in fact be an obstacle to their union). They’re each talented and resourceful and almost impossible to tell apart, and not because they’re both young women: It’s because they’re unspecific ... What works best for LaCour in YA writing works against her, to some extent, in Yerba Buena. The author understands what it takes for a character to mature ... LaCour turns out to have been writing a story about falling out of love, partly because one partner hasn’t yet learned to love herself. That isn’t necessarily a new concept, but here it feels fresh, and not because the lovers are both women — once again, LaCour manages to make that a given, part of life’s path — but because they’re young and unformed ... has some fits and starts as its author makes her own transition to more mature subjects, but it is sweet and bitter and full enough to assure me that she has all the ingredients she needs for the next, older and wiser novel.
... a tender, literary meditation of two women finding themselves and each other ... Fans of LaCour’s YA fiction will adore this novel, and for readers of adult contemporaries who are new to her, this is a beautiful place to begin. I’ve loved her writing for a long time, and I hope this isn’t the last of her adult novels. Her voice shines here, along with her distinctly contemplative intimacy. She writes with careful, chosen prose, propulsive and poetic at once. You can almost feel her sunlight, taste the intricacies of a yerba buena, breathe in the weight of her characters’ wanting and their loneliness. She brings her trademark sapphic tenderness, brimming with ache, to deliver a lyrical, complex love story between a lesbian and a bisexual women, both granted rich interiority ... There’s so much pain here, but it’s rendered with such deliberate, careful compassion. It makes room for the wound and grants grace for the process of its healing ... There still aren’t many literary novels about the lives of flawed, fully explored queer women, so I’m grateful for this beautiful addition to the growing canon ... Lovely and clever, Yerba Buena is a queer, quiet contemplation on what it means to choose to love.
Longtime fans of Nina LaCour’s teen novels will be enchanted by the quietly powerful Yerba Buena, her first book for adult readers. It unfolds without any fanfare through a series of intimate and brilliantly observed details about growing up and into yourself. From one seemingly ordinary scene to the next, the relentless momentum of our imperfect, chaotic lives pulses through LaCour’s prose ... not a simple romance. It’s a layered story about the process of learning to love yourself, of holding onto and letting go of painful history, and of building your own home. Along the way, LaCour captures all the aches and hurts and betrayals and sensual delights of being in your 20s ... LaCour’s prose has a soft, flowing quality and a lushness that readers of her previous books will recognize. She’s adept at describing the things that matter most to her protagonists...Sara and Emilie are such fully realized characters that by the end of the novel, you will feel as though you’ve spent time with cherished friends ... Bursting with emotionally resonant moments and vivid details of LA neighborhoods, Yerba Buena is a remarkable story of queer love and childhood trauma, addiction and forgiveness, family legacies and new beginnings.
Though its characters are faced with incredible trauma and adversity, Printz Award–winner LaCour’s adult debut is lyrical and ultimately hopeful. Yerba buena—the 'good herb,' which is also the name of the restaurant where Sara and Emilie meet—carries the reader through the pain and symbolizes a better future. Emilie’s journey of becoming an interior decorator after leaving her flower-arranging job will also appeal to new adults who may be unsure of their life paths.
One occasionally wishes LaCour subscribed more to the 'show rather than tell' philosophy, as the narrative rather clinically focuses on unfolding events. There are weighty themes here about a variety of societal challenges, drugs being just one of them, but they are underexplored and remain too understated. Nevertheless, the rawness of Sara’s and Emilie’s struggles come through, making for a heartfelt story ... A brisk, plot-driven, and entertaining novel.
... solid ... Though the chemistry is palpable between Emilie and Sara, the story turns out to be less about a love affair than what the women each need for themselves. Sometimes the alternating points of view between Sara and Emilie feel interchangeable, but LaCour writes with beauty and clarity about how a relationship is not a substitute for the characters’ mutual need to love themselves. This doesn’t break new ground, but it gets the job done.