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Dear Emmie Blue

A Novel



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About The Book

In this charming and poignant novel that “oozes charm and wit and speaks beautifully about friendship and love, and the differences between the two” (Laura Pearson, author of I Wanted You to Know), teenager Emmie Blue releases a balloon with her email address and a big secret into the sky, only to fall head-over-heels for the boy who finds it. But fourteen years later, everything Emmie has planned is up in the air.

At sixteen, Emmie Blue stood in the fields of her school and released a red balloon into the sky. Attached was her name, her email address…and a secret she desperately wanted to be free of. Weeks later, on a beach in France, Lucas Moreau discovered the balloon and immediately emailed the attached address, sparking an intense friendship between the two teens.

Now, fourteen years later, Emmie is hiding the fact that she’s desperately in love with Lucas. She has pinned all her hopes on him and waits patiently for him to finally admit that she’s the one for him. So dedicated to her love for Lucas, Emmie has all but neglected her life outside of this relationship—she’s given up the search for her absentee father, no longer tries to build bridges with her distant mother, and lives as a lodger to an old lady she barely knows after being laid off. And when Lucas tells Emmie he has a big question to ask her, she’s convinced this is the moment he’ll reveal his feelings for her. But nothing in life ever quite goes as planned, does it?

Filled with heart and humor, Dear Emmie Blue “beautifully captures the heartache and frustrations of carrying our teenaged selves with us wherever we go” (Anstey Harris, author of Goodbye Paris) that is perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Evvie Drake Starts Over.


Chapter 1

I was ready; so ready for him to ask me. So ready, I was practically beaming, and I imagine so red in the cheeks, I probably looked ruddy, like streetwise children do in Charles Dickens novels—a tomato with a beating heart. Only five minutes ago, everything was perfect, and I don’t often use that word because nothing, however wonderful—people, kisses, bacon sandwiches—ever truly is. But it was. The restaurant, the candlelit table, the beach beyond the decking with its soft-sounding waves, and the wine, which tasted so close to what we’d had nine years ago, on the eve of our twenty-first birthdays, and hadn’t been able to remember the name of since. The fairy lights, spiraling the pillars of the wooden gazebo we sat beneath. The sea breeze. Even my hair had gone just right for the first time since, well, probably that one, singular time it did, and that was likely back when I listened to a Walkman and was convinced Jon Bon Jovi would somehow find himself on a mini-break in Ramsgate, bump into me, and ask me out to the Wimpy for a burger and chips. And Lucas. Of course, Lucas, but then, he always looks as close to perfect as you can get. I close my eyes now, palm pressed against my forehead, knees bent on the tiles of this cold bathroom floor, and I think of him in the next room. Handsome, in that English, waspy way of his. Skin slightly bronzed from the French sun. That crisp white shirt pressed and open at the collar. When we’d first arrived, just a couple of hours ago, swiftly ordering wine, and sharing two appetizers, I looked across at him and wondered dreamily about how we looked to other diners, against the setting sun. Who were we, to the silhouettes of strangers, ambling along the sand and past the veranda on which we sat, their shoes dangling from their fingers at their sides? We’d looked meant to be, I reckon. We’d looked like a happy couple out for dinner by the beach. An anniversary, maybe. A celebration for something. A date night, even, away from the kids at home. Two. One boy, one girl.

“I’m nervous here, Em,” Lucas had begun with a chuckle, hands fidgeting on the table, fingers twisting the ring on his index finger, “to ask you.” And in that moment, at that table, in that restaurant—the bathroom of which I’m hiding in now—I think I’d felt more ready, more sure, than I have ever been of anything. Ready and waiting to say yes. I’d even planned how I would say it, although Rosie said that if I rehearsed it too much, I’d sound constipated and give the impression I actually didn’t want to say yes, and “tonight is not the night to do that thing where you talk like you’ve got the barrel of some maniac’s gun shoved into your back, Emmie, ’cause you do that sometimes, don’t you, when you’re nervy?” But I did rehearse it in my head, ever so slightly, on the ferry over this morning. I’d say something sweet, something clever, like, “What took you so long, Lucas Moreau? I’d love nothing more.” And he would squeeze my hand across the table—across the same, scallop-edged tablecloths Le Rivage has had draped on every one of their little round tables for as long as we have been coming here, and outside, on our way home, we’d walk along the beach, Lucas pausing, as always, to show me where he’d found my balloon all those years ago. He’d kiss me, too, I was sure. At his car, he would probably stop and bend, slowly, hesitatingly, to kiss me, a finger and thumb at my chin. Lucas would kiss me for the first time in fourteen years, both of us tasting of moules marinière and the gold-wrapped peppermints left on the dish with the bill, and at long last, I would be able to breathe. Because all of it would have been worth it. Fourteen years of friendship, and six years of swallowing down the urge to tell him how I really feel, would come full circle tonight.

At least, that’s what I’d expected. Not this. Not me, here, crumpled in this bathroom, on a perfect night, in our perfect restaurant, on our perfect beach, after a perfect dinner, which now stares back at me, chewed and regurgitated in the restaurant’s toilet bowl, an artist’s impression of “utter fucking soul-destroying disaster.” I was expecting to say yes. Minutes ago, I was expecting—practiced, perfect line on the tip of my tongue, back straight, and eyes full of stars—to say yes, to going from best and longest friends, to boyfriend and girlfriend. To a couple. On the eve of our thirtieth birthdays. Because what else could Lucas have to ask me that he couldn’t possibly ask me over the phone?

I think I hid it well, the shock I felt, like a hard slap, at the sound of the question, and the nauseous, long ache that passed across my gut as his words sunk in slowly, like sickly syrup on a cake. I’d gawped. I must have, because his smile faded, his eyes narrowing the way they have always done when he’s starting to worry.


Then I’d said it. Because I knew, looking at him across that table, I could say nothing else.


“Yes?” he repeated, sandy brows raised, broad shoulders relaxing with relief.

“Yes,” I’d told him again, and before I could manage another word, tears came. Tears, I have to say, I recycled masterfully. To Lucas, in that moment, they weren’t tears of devastation, of heartbreak, of fear. They were happy tears. Overjoyed tears, because I was proud of my best friend and this momentous decision he’d made; touched to be a part of it. That’s why he’d grinned with relief. That is why he stood from his chair, circled the round, candlelit table, crouched by my side, and put his strong arms around me.

“Ah, come on, Em.” He’d laughed into my ear. “Don’t grizzle too much. The other diners’ll think I’m some dickhead breaking a girl’s heart over dinner or something.”

Funny. Because that’s exactly how it felt.

Then it had come: that hot rising from my stomach, to my chest. “I need the loo.”

Lucas drew back, still crouched, and I willed him to not question it, to not look me in the eyes. He’d know. He’d be able to tell.

“Bit of a funny head since this morning,” I lied. “Bit migraine-y, you know what I’m like. Need to take some painkillers, splash some water on my face…” As if. As if I’d smudge my makeup. But it’s what they say in films, isn’t it? And it didn’t feel at all like real life, that moment. It still doesn’t, as I hug this public—albeit sparkling—toilet, the bowl splatted with the dinner and wine we’d ordered, all beaming grins and excitement, a mere hour ago.

Married. Lucas is getting married.

In nine months, my best friend of fourteen years, the man I am in love with, is getting married to a woman he loves. A woman who isn’t me. And I am to stand right there, at the altar, beside him, as his best woman.

Reading Group Guide

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.


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.

About The Author

Photograph by Patrick Harboun

Lia Louis lives in the United Kingdom with her partner and three young children. Before raising a family, she worked as a freelance copywriter and proofreader. She was the 2015 winner of Elle magazine’s annual writing competition and has been a contributor for Bloomsbury’s Writers and Artists blog for aspiring writers. She is the author of Somewhere Close to HappyDear Emmie Blue, Eight Perfect HoursThe Key to My Heart, and Better Left Unsent.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (February 2, 2021)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982135928

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Raves and Reviews

"A swoon-worthy British rom-com with big heart and a heroine worth rooting for."

– The Washington Post

"A sweet, poignant tale of love and friendship. I loved it."

– Beth O'Leary, internationally bestselling author of THE FLATSHARE and THE SWITCH

"This book is f**king perfect, buy it now."

– Julia Whelan, critically-acclaimed author of MY OXFORD YEAR

"Louis's is a bold, standout voice in the women's fiction genre."

– Gillian McAllister, author of THE GOOD SISTER

"Lia is one of those rare writers who manage to break your heart and mend it all at once."

– Stacey Halls, author of THE FAMILIARS

"An absolute treasure of a book. A love story to cherish."

– Michelle Adams, author of MY SISTER

"DEAR EMMIE BLUE is the new Eleanor Oliphant. Deftly crafted descriptions and characters who jump off the page and drag you into the story. I loved every moment of it."

– Bella Osborne, author of A WALK IN WILDFLOWER PARK

"I loved it so much. Such a perfectly crafted story that made my heart swell. So many parts gave me a severe case of goosebumps. Emmie is fabulously funny and real, and wow - that ending was perfect. People will not be able to resist Emmie Blue."


"DEAR EMMIE BLUE has everything--it oozes charm and wit and speaks beautifully about friendship and love, and the differences between the two."

– Laura Pearson, author of I WANTED YOU TO KNOW

"Beautifully captures the heartache and frustrations of carrying our teenaged selves with us wherever we go, and yet we would never be without them. LOVED IT."

– Anstey Harris, author of GOODBYE PARIS

"This gorgeous and clever book is a heartfelt story about love and friendship, which certainly didn't end the way I expected. Fresh and funny writing, with a heroine (and heroes!) I adored."

– Holly Miller, author of THE SIGHT OF YOU

“I will happily read every word Lia Louis ever writes, from novels to shopping lists, this is a very special book by a very special writer. DEAR EMMIE BLUE is sweet, sparkling and heartwarming, the perfect book to remind you dreams can come true.”

– Lindsey Kelk, internationally bestselling author of ONE IN A MILLION

"Like 'My Best Friend's Wedding' plus an unfairly gorgeous Frenchwoman, mixtapes, and miles of inside jokes . . . Dear Emmie Blue will resonate long after readers turn the last page.”

– Booklist

"There isn’t anything we didn’t love about this story! Every thread woven felt magical and beautiful, the way it played out was perfection! Perfection! The whole book from start to finish enthralled us and captivated us. One for the 2020 favorite list, that’s for sure! Do not miss DEAR EMMIE BLUE!"

– Totally Booked

"Ebbing and flowing with the ups and downs of life, DEAR EMMIE BLUE is a delightful read that fans of Bridget Jones’s Diary and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine will enjoy."

– BookPage

"An uplifting and powerful story about finding yourself as you grow up and into your own adulthood."

– Natasha is a Book Junkie

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