Nicola Yoon is back! The New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also a Star — both of which have been turned into films — is getting ready to release her first book in nearly five years.
Her latest, Instructions for Dancing, follows a young girl named Evie as she deals with her parents’ divorce and finds herself with a new ability that might change the way she handles the relationships in her life. EW has an exclusive first look at the book’s cover below, as well as a chat with Yoon about what we can expect when Instructions for Dancing is released on June 1, 2021.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did the idea for Instructions for Dancing come from?
NICOLA YOON: My mom has been very sick since 2017. The Everything, Everything movie came out, my mom was in the hospital the night of the premiere, and she’s been wildly sick up and down since then, so this book a little bit came out of that. The question I was trying to figure out was: You love people and you love them so intensely and we’re going to lose them, and do you still want to take that chance? Do you still want to keep loving people, is it worth it? It’s one of the questions I always ask myself. You can’t help but loving people but what if you could? [Laughs] Would you choose to love anyway? What’s the saying, it’s better to have loved than lost than never to have loved at all. Well, I don’t know about that. [Laughs] That’s really where it comes from, and then I had this idea of: If a person can see the end of all relationships, what does it mean for their own?
So how does that question translate to Evie’s story?
She is having a hard time because her parents have gotten divorced. She used to think of her parents as being the ultimate couple. They were her inspiration for her own imaginings of what her own love life could be like. And then one day she meets this mysterious bookseller and gains the ability to see people’s relationships and the history of their relationships. She sees all the highlights, so when they meet, the things that are significant to them, and then she sees the ending. The thing she notes to herself is that everything always ends. Then of course she meets this very cute boy because you have to. [Laughs] Seeing people’s endings leads her to a ballroom dance class where she meets this boy. He calls himself X. And they have to dance together and that is where I shall leave it.
Is X a dancer or also just in the class?
He’s just in this class. His grandparents are the ones who own the studio and so they’re basically doing the grandparents a favor by getting to this ballroom dance contest, but he’s actually a rocker. He’s the lead singer of a band, so that I could get all my rock ‘n roll boy fantasies into the world. [Laughs]
How does Evie compare to your other leading ladies?
She’s a little more cynical and sarcastic. She’s skeptical of the world, which is how I was feeling. [Laughs] Maddy in Everything, Everything so wanted the world, she so wanted to be open to it and to be allowed into it. And Natasha, her world was being taken away from her so she was trying to hold onto something. Evie’s a little different, she’s like, “I don’t trust the world at all so I’m going to hold everything a little bit away from me.”
You’re coming off two very successful books, both of which have become movies. Did you feel a sense of pressure when writing this one to do something a little different? How do you balance staying true to what people love about your writing while still surprising them?
I actually wrote a book before this one that I honestly don’t think will ever see the light of day. It was a very, very, very sad book where I was deep in my emotions and I could not see my way through to a story. It was mostly one emotion and that emotion was grief. Because that book failed ultimately, and I had to put it back into the metaphorical drawer, I think that it helped me get past the self-consciousness of having two successful books in a weird way. It was a book that didn’t work because I was too grief-ridden and then it failed and that’s the worst thing that could happen, so then when I wrote this book, I was so much freer. I worry about it now, but I wasn’t worried about it during the writing. Now I’m kind of like, “Oh God, I hope people like this book.”