Title: Instructions for Dancing
Author: Nicola Yoon
Genres: YA, Romance, Contemporary Romance
Release Date: Jun 1, 2021
You know that feeling when you’re younger, the excitement of being fully absorbed in a book and the characters, their life, their stories – this book brought back that feeling for me.
Nicola Yoon’s Instructions for Dancing may be targeted for 12 to 17-year-olds, but as a 22-year-old, it still struck a massive chord with me.
WHAT IS THE BOOK ABOUT?
The main storyline follows Evie, a high-school student that has fallen out of love with love itself. After her parent’s divorce, she throws away all her romance novels, and her heart begins to harden. She doesn’t want to know the word romance, or experience it in any way. But, of course she ends up doing so anyway! She finds herself at a dance studio, and is suddenly thrown into a series of romantic dance lessons with X, a handsome, highschool rockstar who literally sweeps her off her feet.
And I think this is what struck a chord with me as an adult reading this book.
I think all of us can relate to the idea of having cynicism overtake our worldview the older we get. And although a lot of YA protagonists might act this way, the more I learnt about Evie, her backstory, the true reason why her fear prevents her from loving others fully, the more I empathised with her. Her cynicism doesn’t come from a I’m-too-cool-for-feelings, Mary-Sue, romance character template. It comes from a real, raw place, that I think a lot of readers would be able to relate to.
WHY IS INSTRUCTIONS FOR DANCING YOUR NEXT READ?
So, what makes this special? You may be asking. I’ve read Contemporary Romance before, I hear you say, I know this plotline inside out. I can predict exactly what’s going to happen based on the blurb alone.
Firstly right off the bat: ROMANCE WITH A PROTAGONIST OF COLOUR – GO GO GO!! DO YOU KNOW HOW RARE THAT IS??
As well as that, I’ve not read a romance that has been able to balance authenticity so well with that warm, mushy lovey-dovey feeling. Often, I feel YA romance in particular can fall into the trap of being overly dramatic with relationships. But Yoon’s character writing skills are just *chef’s kiss*.
Instructions for Dancing reminds us that it’s never a clear path to overcome any kind of emotional trauma. Evie experiences many ups and downs in her life, and as a result, the way she views herself and those around her changes. But, crucially, because of this, the romance part of her life is secondary, not because of her cynicism, but because that’s how everyday life is. That also meant that those snippets of more stereotypically romantic moments were a lot more enjoyable. And that balance was something I really loved about Yoon’s style.
Another part that I loved, language was so simple, but so poignant. Because Evie is a self-aware, longtime Romance reader, Yoon uses that to her advantage. For example, in her first encounter with X, Evie is already listing all the tropes of contemporary romance love interests and how X matches them. We’re not meant to be swooning over him, we’re meant to be scrutinising him, and this almost breaking of the fourth wall was SO GOOD!! We are reading a romance novel, through the lens of whether or not Evie’s life lines up to her romance novels. Romance-ception.
And, as a poet, I’m a lover of language, so I was really worried this book wouldn’t captiviate me. But. It. Did!
So, in case none of that grabbed you, I’m going to round off this post with one of my favourite quotes from the book, to prove that Instructions for Dancing is your next YA Contemporary Romance read:
“Happiness is tricky. Sometimes you have to fight for it. Sometimes, though — the best times — it sneaks up behind you, wraps an arm around your waist and pulls you close.”— Instructions for Dancing, Nicola Yoon
Now tell me, what’s your next read? 😎
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of a tour with TheWriteReads. All views are my own and are not sponsored by PRH Children’s.