Thursday, October 22, 2020

Dear Emmie Blue

Title:  Dear Emmie Blue
Author:  Lia Louis
Publication Information:  Atria / Emily Bestler Books. 2020. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1982135913 / 978-1982135911

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The Fortescue Lane Balloon Release 2004: celebrating 50 years of excellence education!"

Favorite Quote:  "Maybe home isn't a place. It's a feeling. Of being looked after and understood. Of being loved." 

Emmie Blue went through a traumatic childhood. Her truth of that childhood event was not believed. It altered her life then and forever more. She needed a friend. Balloon Boy was there. He always has been and always promises to be.

Balloon Boy? Yes. Emmie sent her desperation up as a confession and a wish in a balloon as part of a school event. Against all odds, her balloon found a destination across the Channel in France. It found Balloon Boy, who answered back. A friendship was formed, a friendship that has been Emmie Blue's anchor ever since.

Fast forward almost fifteen years later. As Emmie discovers, that friendship - and for her, that love - is not completely what she believes it to be. How will she handle that truth? 

The story arc of the book reminds me of the movie My Best Friend's Wedding. A want-to-be bride ends up the groom's best woman. She is torn between her own feelings and her desire to be there for her friend. She is surrounded by other strong friendships who are seeing her through this challenge. This book though adds in the dimensions of Emmie's backstory, and the fact that perhaps what she believes about her life and her friendships may not be the truth.

At the same time, this story about Emmie Blue herself, her reckoning with her past, and her journey to figure out what she wants her future to be. Although Emmie is now thirty years old, this story reads in many ways like a coming of age journey. At the beginning, Emmie is working in somewhat of a dead-end job, lives in a single room rented in a house, and has only a couple of friends. Her life centers around Balloon Boy - a "best" friend.

Mind you, nothing much happens in Emmie's story in this over three hundred page book other than Emmie's discovery of her own past and the truth about Balloon Boy. As a reader, I see the conclusion of her story coming way before Emmie ever does. As a reader, I discover that the main friendship of this book has many elements of an unhealthy relationship - some of Lucas's choices and Emmy's dependence on him. This is never really highlighted, but perhaps that is the point because it opens the door for Emmie's journey to come. Nevertheless, why does Emmie stay, and why do there seem to be no repercussions?

Part of the charm of the book are actually some of the secondary characters. Their stories are developed enough to be interesting but not so much as to compete with Emmie's story. Even in the side stories, I see the conclusions coming way before Emmie does. , and Emmie comes across as considerably younger, more innocent, and more immature than her age would indicate. Yet, I follow along waiting for her discovery. 

The story that starts off in a teenager's darkness ends up sweet and charming. The lasting impression.... Everyone should have a friend like Balloon Boy in their life. If you are fortunate enough to find joy like that, hold on.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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