This reading group guide for DEAR EMMIE BLUE includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Lia Louis. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.Introduction
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A teenage Emmie Blue releases a message inside of a balloon that includes her email address and a dark secret she finally wants to be free of. Lucas finds the balloon and messages her, which starts a cherished friendship. Fourteen years later, Emmie is sure Lucas is the one, but is devastated when he tells her that he’s getting married. Emmie suddenly realizes that life is not quite going as planned—she’s stuck in a dead-end job, given up the search for her absentee father, stopped trying to please her distant mother, and rents a room from an old lady she barely knows. Emmie Blue is about to learn everything she thinks she knows about life (and love) is just that: what she thinks she knows. Is there such a thing as meant to be? Or is it true when they say that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans?Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Dear Emmie Blue
begins with the thirtieth birthday celebration of the two main characters, Emmie and Lucas. Emmie believes that thirty is the age when everyone is settled and knows who they are. Is this true? What does/did turning thirty symbolize for you?
2. You can feel Emmie’s heartbreak when Lucas tell her he is getting married. Do you think she misread signals? Do you think Lucas led her on? How would you explain Emmie and Lucas’s friendship through the years?
3. Emmie is afraid that when Lucas gets married, everything will change. Does marriage change friendships? When one friend is single and the other is married (or in a committed relationship), how does the dynamic of friendships shift?
4. Why is Eliot’s girlfriend, Ana, so cruel and dismissive of Emmie? Do you think she is jealous or threatened by Emmie’s friendship with Eliot? How would you explain Ana and Eliot’s relationship knowing that she was once his therapist?
5. Emmie’s mother appears to not be very maternal toward Emmie and very unconcerned about her feelings. With this in mind, how does it affect Emily’s relationship with Lucas and his family? Do you think this impacts Emmie’s relationship with Louise?
6. What do you think was the reason behind Emmie’s mother not revealing the identity of Emmie’s biological father? Do you think she was embarrassed? Emmie’s mother tells her, “You wanting to find him, tells me you’re not content with the parent you do have.” Does this make her mother selfish?
7. Emmie asks, “Do you ever feel like everyone has it figured out and you don’t?” How would you answer this question? Have you felt this way before? When?
8. How does Emmie and Louise’s relationship evolve? Why is Louise so invested in Emmie’s life? Why does Louise finally tell her about Martha?
9. Emmie believes that her mother stopped her from being loved and made her lonely. Is this true? How do you think her life would’ve changed if Emmie had a father figure in her life?
10. Emmie’s friend Rosie asks if she loves Lucas or just loves the idea of him. Discuss. Looking back on their relationship, why is Emmie so drawn to Lucas? What does Lucas represent to her?
11. Dear Emmie Blue
proves that you always find love where you least expect it. Why do you think people continue to have such a romanticized idea of love? Would you call Emmie a “hopeless romantic”?
12. It is revealed that Emmie experienced sexual assault, which caused her to release the message into the sky. How does a childhood trauma like this affect a relationship with others later in life? Does this explain Emmie’s behavior and relationship with Lucas and her mother?Enhance Your Book Club
1. There are nine different volumes of the Mix CD labels addressed to Balloon Girl throughout the book. Pick one or all of the Mix CD track listings and discuss what songs match each description. How did you feel when you reached Mix CD Vol. 9?
2. Dear Emmie Blue
is a book where you become invested in the characters long after the last page. Discuss how you think relationships develop between Emmie and Eliot, Rosie and Fox, and Lucas and Marie. Beyond the novel, what do you think happens to Ana and Emmie’s mother?
3. Dear Emmie Blue
is very character driven. What actors would you cast for the screen version? Discuss with your book club whether it should be a film or TV series.A Conversation with Lia Louis
Q: The story starts with the character releasing a balloon with a message into the air. Did you do something similar? What was the outcome?
A: I did, when I was about eight or nine, which was back in the lovely nineties. It was to celebrate our school’s anniversary. We all had put our names and the school’s contact details on a tag attached to the balloon and let it go—all three hundred of us. Nothing happened to mine, but weeks later in a school assembly, it was announced that someone in France had been in touch to say they’d found a student’s balloon. It was really magical to me as a child (and an adult!) and always stuck with me!
Q: Emmie Blue seems to be such a hopeless romantic. What intrigued you about her? Do some of her characteristics come from you or anyone you know?
A: With Emmie, I wanted to look at how one event in your past can shape your whole future. I have also always been in awe of people who have been through a tough time, but still manage to be positive and kind and hopeful afterward, when it would be totally understandable if they felt the opposite. I try not to be, but I am a knee-jerk, worst-case-scenario thinker (a product of being an anxious person!) so writing someone like Emmie, who has such hopefulness and belief in love and destiny, was a pleasure.
Q: In the beginning, Emmie swears that Luke is going to reveal his love for her. The reader feels that she so badly wants her “happily ever after.” Do you believe in the idea of “hopeless romantic?”
A: I think I do! I like to think everyone, in some shape or form, gets their happily ever after somehow, but I do think it often doesn’t look like how we think it will. And sometimes I think we can be so busy looking at what we think it should be, that we can miss something else.
Q: Dear Emmie Blue
is romantic, witty, and heartbreaking, but also deals with serious issues. How were you able to balance between humor and tragedy in this novel?
A: I think life is a beautiful tapestry of light and shade, lows and highs, and I love stories that deal with both, because for me, it’s true to life. In my deepest despair, it’s laughter that has pulled me through. I find learning to laugh about a low time helps me disarm the power of it.
Q: How are you able to silence the outside world in order to write a novel? What is your routine before writing? Do you have special writing rituals?
A: I have three children so quiet time is pretty much nonexistent! But when those quiet times do arise—when they attend school and day care, or when my boyfriend finishes work—I dash upstairs to lock myself in the bedroom with my laptop, or on more exciting days, slink off to a coffee shop. I am far more productive in the mornings and find I write so much better at 6 a.m. versus 6 p.m., but needs must (especially at the moment during lockdown) and I beg, borrow, and steal time to write and try to utilize the quiet time I do get, regardless of the fact that sometimes I really would rather be catching up on precious and delicious sleep!
Q: Which characters were easy and harder to write? Are any of them based on people you know?
A: I don’t think any of my characters are based on people I know, but I do think subconsciously, fragments of people I’ve met and places I’ve been over the years sneak into my writing. I found Eliot quite difficult at first. I spent a lot of time listening to music and daydreaming about him in the beginning, which really helped him form fully in my mind, and once he had, it was a joy to write him. Rosie and Fox were so easy. They chatter in my head (even now!) and I almost can’t type what they’re saying fast enough! I could write Rosie and Fox forever.
Q: The mixtapes are ultimately sweet love notes. Did you have any specific songs in mind when listing the mixtape songs?
A: So many. Music is so important to my writing process and each book has a playlist on my Spotify that I listen to on repeat when I’m writing! “Songbird” and “Time After Time” by Eva Cassidy are definitely on those mixtapes. “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell.
“Always” by Bon Jovi. In fact, a lot of Bon Jovi would feature. This is Emmie we’re talking about!
Q: After reading the novel, you wonder what happens to the lives of all the characters. Have you thought about writing a novel based on other characters in Dear Emmie Blue
A: I haven’t really given it any serious thought, but I think if I had to write a book about another character, I’d choose Rosie.
Q: What books and/or authors inspired you to become a writer?
A: Louise Rennison will always be an inspiration to me. The Georgia Nicolson books made me want to be a writer. It was the first time I’d picked up a book I could relate to—I must’ve been in my early teens. Georgia was such an honest, haphazard, and flawed character, and her family felt so real. It was the first time I thought “maybe I could be a writer.” Louise’s writing was so true and funny. Finding those books was a revelation.
Q: I read that you have a fascination with letters. Both of your novels are based on a letter or note received. Are there any letters that have been a source of inspiration for these stories?
A: There are no letters in particular really, but there was one I found at a car boot sale once that was from a young man in the 1920s to his girlfriend. In the letter he talked about how he was planning on taking a trip that weekend to talk to her father about asking for her hand in marriage, and how she “shouldn’t be nervous.” I have it somewhere. But it is one of my favorites. Just pure love, freeze-framed in time.