Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore.
Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually.
As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything–including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met.
Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love.
In the end, is love worth the risk?
My love for YA seems to be growing. Having dipped my toe in the water with The Inheritance Games and The Cousins – both mystery-thrillers (a genre that is very much my comfort zone), I decided to venture beyond comfort into the heady world of YA contemporary romance and give Nicola Yoon’s latest novel Instructions for Dancing a go. And I am so glad I did because I LOVED this book!
Instructions for Dancing tells the story of Evie – former avid romance reader and believer in true love. I say former because when the book opens, Evie is in the process of donating all her romance novels to the local Little Free Library. Ever since she walked in on her Dad kissing a woman who wasn’t her Mom, Evie’s stopped believing in love. Because what good is love if it ends up in heartbreak?
When her visit to the Little Free Library results in a mysterious meeting that ends up with Evie being able to see the outcome of various relationships, she becomes even more convinced of her theory. Love might be magnificent whilst lasts but no matter how bright it burns, it only ends in heartbreak – bitter break-ups, ruined friendships, and loneliness. However, when Evie pursues the other ‘gift’ that her mysterious benefactor has given her – a battered book called ‘Instructions for Dancing’ – she is forced to re-consider. The book leads her to the La Brea Dance Studio – and to her new dance partner X. Determined to live in the moment, and with a ‘say yes’ philosophy, could X be the antidote to Evie’s cynicism? Or is theirs also a love story that is doomed to have an unhappy ending?
I absolutely loved both Evie and X. As well as being perfect for each other, their chemistry is brilliantly conveyed on the page. Smart and snarky, Evie is a brilliant narrator – and her anger and bitterness is completely understandable given what has happened to her and the huge changes that have been wrought in her life as a result. X (short for Xavier) is also carrying hidden baggage – dealing with the loss of someone close to him and trying to figure out how to live his life and fulfil his dreams. They felt like real, fully rounded characters, and their romance felt natural and progressive rather than insta-love.
I also adored some of the supporting characters. The plotline with Evie and her relationship to her Mom and her Dad is really sensitively handled – redemptive without being twee is probably how I’d put it. And the dance school sections are an absolute scream – Evie and X’s instructor Fifi is definitely my favourite character and every scene with her in it had me laughing out loud at her dialogue (“No rocking side to side. You are not little teapot.”). I also really like Evie’s friends Martin, Cassidy, and Sophie.
Instructions for Dancing wholly captures what it is to be in your late teens – that feeling of being full of potential and ready to explore the world. But also of being scared of letting go the cherished things of your childhood, and the realisation that adult life – and adult emotions – may be much more complex than romance novels sometimes make out.
I laughed a lot reading it – and I also cried a bit too. No spoilers, but there are moments in this novel that will rip your heart out and stomp on it a bit so it might be a good idea to have some tissues handy, especially as you get towards the end. That said, the slight shift in tone didn’t feel out of place with the more light-hearted parts of the book. This is a novel that wears its comedy and its heartbreak side-by-side and, as such, celebrates life in all its wonderful, tragic, messy glory. I absolutely adored it – and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an uplifting book about the importance of living life to its fullest.
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to The Write Reads for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour! There are lots of other reviews and spotlights on the tour so follow the hashtags #InstructionsForDancing, #TheWriteReads and #UltimateBlog Tour for more reviews and content!
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