YERBA BUENA by Nina LaCour
Sara is fourteen when she falls in love with her best friend, Annie. Two years later, Annie goes missing, and the police pull her body out of the river. Sara, heartbroken, suspects that her father and his sinister friends were involved and flees her small town for L.A., where she works her way to success as a renowned but infamously aloof bartender.
Emilie is stuck in a rut. She is in her seventh year and fifth major in college; she feels disconnected from her Creole heritage; and her strained relationship with her sister, who is in and out of rehab, consumes her with guilt. Looking for a change, she takes a job on a whim arranging flowers at Yerba Buena, an upscale restaurant in L.A., and embarks on an affair with the married owner.
Sara’s and Emilie’s paths intersect across the bar in Yerba Buena. Their connection is immediate, but the baggage they carry and the choices they have made pull them apart. Emilie realizes that she has hollowed herself out by looking for purpose in what other people give her and resolves to reconnect with her family’s roots by renovating her grandmother’s house. Sara is forced to confront her trauma when her father dies and she is called home, to the town she never wanted to set foot in again, to settle his estate. The two women must decide: will they go their separate ways, or are they ready to open the door and take the first step forward, into a new love, together?
By turns painfully and transcendently beautiful, devastating and ultimately hopeful, YERBA BUENA is an epic love story that is just as much about what Sara and Emilie need to heal independently as it is about the romance blossoming between them. Though they are both flawed characters, I was captivated by Sara’s reserved charm and Emilie’s tender strength. Each step they took toward each other had me cheering. This is the perfect book for readers who enjoyed WRITERS AND LOVERS, adult fans of Nina LaCour’s YA fiction, and twenty-somethings who haven’t yet learned to treat themselves, mistakes and all, with gentleness.
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“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.”–Booklist, starred review