Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon. New York : Delacorte Press, [2021]

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Love romance novels? Evie Thomas, the main character of Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon, does! Seventeen-year-old Evie is a die-hard romantic who knows true love exists because she can see it in her parents’ love for each other. Evie dreams of her own happily-ever-after, reading about first kisses and love at first sight. Then Evie catches her father with another woman. She watches as her parents go through a messy divorce, her mother and sister try to move on, her father stays with the “other woman,” and everything Evie ever believed about love crumbles.

This becomes worse when Evie donates all of her once-beloved romance novels to a Little Free Library and gains an unexpected gift in return. Suddenly, whenever she sees a couple kiss, Evie gets a magical glance into their relationship, seeing scenes from how the lovers met and fell in love to how things between them will eventually end. Evie will do anything to end this curse; she already knows that true love does not exists and always ends in heartbreak without seeing it everywhere she goes. So, she follows the only clue she has, a book from the Little Free Library called Instructions for Dancing.

Instructions for Dancing leads Evie to the failing La Brea dance studio where she meets the endlessly optimistic and handsome “X,” gets roped into competing with him in an amateur dance contest to save the studio, and finds herself wanting to fall in love even if the thought of doing so scares her more than anything else.

Do not be fooled by the cover or the title, Nicola Yoon’s Instructions for Dancing is more like The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants than Step Up. The dance competition and Evie’s relatable, ever-respectful romance with X is only a part of the story. The novel is equally concerned with Evie’s connection to her tight-knit friend group as they get ready to graduate high school and go their separate ways for the first time, and with Evie’s relationship with her father as he prepares to remarry, tying his life to the very woman who broke up his relationship with Evie’s mom in the first place.

While Evie is 17 and often wrong in her thinking, she never stops being relatable, nor does her story feel like one only for teens. We all have to deal with the fact that love includes loss and, like Evie, we have to have to figure out how to live with the pain that comes from that without missing out on the joy that relationships of all kinds bring.

Bring tissues to the table when reading Instructions for Dancing, but also expect wonderfully-written dialogue, fully fleshed-out characters, and sections written in text messages between its central teens. The novel is a coming-of-age story perfect for fans of All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and the author Sarah Dessen. Full of heart, Instruction for Dancing will capture your emotions until the very end. Whether you are laughing, crying, or clutching your chest the novel will make you believe in the bittersweet realities of love.

Rebecca Zimmerman is the Children’s Librarian Assistant at Graham Public Library. Contact her at