Contemporary Romance Young Adult

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon Review

Wow, did Nicola Yoon’s newest YA contemporary just hit me in the booknerd feels or what? My heart is aching (in a good way, *dabs eyes*) after this whirlwind of a book about love, loss, ballroom dancing, and Tom-Hanks-in-the-movie-Big-style magic.

Evie used to love love. Happily ever afters and all that jazz. But since her parents’ divorce, she has stopped believing in OTPs (one true pairings) and gone to donating her romance books (her former favorites) to the local library.

“The problem with broken hearts isn’t that they kill you. It’s that they don’t.” 

Nicola Yoon

While on an outing to donate the last batch of her rom-coms, Evie is waylaid by a neighborhood free-library where she picks up one book in exchange for all her donations. The book is called, you guessed it, Instructions for Dancing. But Evie leaves the library with more than a free book. Suddenly, she’s able to see visions of the future. Those visions come when a couple in love is sharing a kiss, telling her how their relationship will end. How does Evie know her visions are accurate? The end of her sister’s relationship is the first one she accurately foresees. And the visions really aren’t doing much to change Evie’s mind about love. Because wherever she looks (or tries not to), love ends in heartbreak.

“Here’s what I think. If you get very, very lucky in this life, then you get to love another person so hard and so completely that when you lose them, it rips you apart. I think the pain is the proof of a life well lived and loved.” 

Nicola Yoon

Evie’s best friend, Martin (who loves everything tweed and has a beautifully open mind), sagely advises her to lean into the magic and follow its path. Oh, how I love the magical realism of this story! This leads Evie to a dance studio and the romance-novel hot Xavier (X for short). X happens to be a rock star in the making. Cue the *swoon.* Events transpire — no, not those events (head out of the gutter) — and Evie and X end up training to compete in a ballroom dance competition.

Instructions for Dancing reads like music and pulls you in like a dance. Themes here are of lost love and loss, of disillusionment, and of having to rediscover yourself after the axis of your world has shifted. This novel is a work of art. Evie’s friendships are layered and complex, and, as a reader, there’s this exquisite feeling of getting to live the end of senior year alongside the characters (bonfires, Sunday waffles, and all). Her parents’ divorce is well explored, including how each member reacts differently. Evie’s magic feels entirely real (a living breathing element amid this contemporary tale) and lends the narrative a cinematic feel. And then, of course, there is the dancing!

One of the most nuanced and expertly crafted YA novels I’ve read. A gorgeous YA romcom with a magical, thought-provoking, and emotional heart that goes straight for your feels.


Book: Instructions for Dancing
Published: Penguin
Pages: 285
Age Range: 13 – 18
Publication Date: June 3rd, 2021
Stars: 5/5

Penguin Random House kindly sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.

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