Thanks to Partners NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital ARC of Nicola Yoon’s Instructions for Dancing in exchange for an honest review. The book will be released on Tuesday, June 1.
Since her first novel, Everything, Everything, which I devoured in one sitting, Nicola Yoon has been an auto-buy author for me. I was therefore thrilled to get an early peek at her upcoming release Instructions for Dancing, which met my (very) high expectations.
The book opens with Evie Thomas’s broken heart. Her parents’ marriage has ended, eradicating her idealistic view that some love is forever. She takes steps to remove all forms of her former foolishness from her life, including getting rid of all of the romance novels, which used to anchor her avid reading. She wants no reminders of the depths of her disappointment.
While she’s donating her books to a Little Free Library, she meets a mysterious woman who gives her a book called Instructions for Dancing. She returns home, feeling lighter without the romance books, but Evie soon discovers a strange new ability: she sees—randomly, it seems—the entire course of couples’ relationships, including their inevitable endings. While she doesn’t understand exactly what magic is happening, these endings of beautiful love stories, one right after another, reinforce her disbelief in love.
One of Evie’s best friends encourages her to do something to figure out what’s happening: he identifies the LFL lady as the source for Evie’s new power and advises her to go to the dance studio, La Brea Dance, where Instructions for Dancing originated. It’s there that Evie meets X, the grandson of the studio owners, and gets swept up in his grandparents’ efforts to save the studio through an amateur ballroom dancing competition. So, Evie and X are learning to dance—together—and getting to know one another.
Oh, I loved this book so much. Evie is just a fabulously layered character, one whose fears and fragility about love are understandable. X also knows loss, which has affected his own outlook on life and on risk taking in a different way from Evie. As they come to understand what has made the other feel the way they do, their closeness shapes the way they move forward together.
This book made me laugh, and it made me ugly cry; I love a dancing competition, so I was a sucker for watching Evie and X’s journey toward being a couple both on the dance floor and off. The secondary characters—Evie’s family, their ballroom dance teacher Maggie, Evie and X’s friends—are richly drawn, and the way they both support and challenge Evie and X is just brilliant. Instructions for Dancing moved Nicola Yoon even higher on my list of auto-buy authors.
I'm Jen Moyers, co-host of the Unabridged Podcast and an English teacher.