Parents' Guide to

Instructions for Dancing

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Emotional, memorable tale of girl who has romantic visions.

Book Nicola Yoon Romance 2021
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A beautifully written if occasionally heartbreaking coming-of-age story about love, loss, and what it means to grow from both. Evie is smart, loyal, and curious, but her father's infidelity has ruined the idea of love and particularly happily ever afters for her. She's so affected by what she considers a curse that she even distances herself from her and Martin's two other best friends, Sophie and Cassidy, who begin a relationship that because of a spontaneous kiss, Evie knows will end eventually. So how can a girl so surrounded by the end of love expect to find it? Author Nicola Yoon works her writerly magic by making X the most wonderful of love interests. He's not only ridiculously attractive, but he's completely invested in his art, wants to be a rock-star musician, and embraces the present, the "yes," the living in the moment. That's an ideal counterbalance to Evie's need for a plan, for an answer, for rules to guard her heart and her life. Their banter is comical but also substantive, and they challenge each other in that sweet way only 18 year olds can. She encourages him to finish high school, he convinces her not to overthink and to perhaps give her father a second chance (she barely speaks to him).

Evie's friend group is also well-written, particularly Martin who is one of the few "straight male best friends" in YA who doesn't have a crush on his female bestie. In fact, Martin has eyes only for Evie's slightly younger sister Danica but can't work up the nerve to do anything about it. Martin believes Evie's unbelievable powers and supports her even when he doesn't always agree with her choices. The only tiny hiccup in the book may not bother all readers, but those who are sensitive to stories that justify adultery may feel uncomfortable with how Evie's father and his mistress-turned-fiancée are depicted, so teens who've been through a parental divorce (or even parents who stayed together post-infidelity) may have a tough time with that. There might not be a clear-cut happily-ever-after, but readers who can handle bittersweet and introspective stories that make you cry and think will love it.

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