Review: Yerba Beuna by Nina LaCour

We need to talk about Nina LaCour.

She burst onto the young adult scene at its height in the twenty-teens, and immediately impressed with narrator-driven coming of age novels about young womanhood, friendship and love. Her novels, Hold Still and The Disenchantments were some of my favorite YAs of that era (and back then I was reading a LOT of it). 

All of her books have a similar feel (at least the ones I’ve read) where she’s capable of circling around a theme and a particular imagery without making it feel trite, tired or overwrought. Such is the also case with her upcoming adult debut, Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena is the story of two women orbiting one another and finding love in the aftermath of their own traumas, hangups and grief. Years before they will meet, readers are introduced to a young Sara Foster, a teenager who endures some of the worst the world has to offer and runs away to escape it all. Hundreds of miles away, Emilie DuBois is struggling to find herself and her wants. When they finally meet as successful twenty-somethings in LA, it’s electric for them both, but neither is in the right place to pursue what they feel. What follows is a back and forth of longing, with the same notes of finding oneself that LaCour wrote so masterfully in her young adult protagonists. When Sara and Emilie do finally circle into one another the pieces fit in both a puzzling and a perfect manner. 

Throughout it all, LaCour brings a sensual prose full of flowers and flavors to a story about a woman who will craft expensive cocktails and another who will fashion exquisite florals. The restaurant where they meet is called Yerba Buena, but so is the herb that Sara is given as a tea in her youth, the flower that Emilie adds to her first flower arrangements and the drink that Sara makes for Emilie the first night they crash into one another. It’s another example of the triumphant way that LaCour arranges imagery into something powerful and seductive. 

Yerba Buena – the novel – is what Sara’s cocktails and Emilie’s flowers are: powerful, seductive, sensual, crafted, fashioned. Treats for all the senses, begging for tactile engagement in the same way her lovers also beg to be touched. 

Yerba Buena will hit bookshelves May 31, 2022. Get it here

Thanks to Macmillan Audio, Flatiron Books and NetGalley for the early audio copy. 

Content Warnings: Death, Grief, Addiction, DubCon/SA, Drug Abuse, Death of a Parent, Mild Homophobia, Blood, Infidelity 


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