Dear Emmie Blue is a book for dreamers. It is sweet and gentle, even as it tackles some serious stuff.
Plot: Emmie is a lonely, traumatized kid when, in a desperate bid for companionship, releases a balloon with her email address into the sky in England. That balloon is found by Lucas, a British kid who’d just moved to France and was deeply homesick. They become best friends. At the start of the book, Emmie thinks she’s meeting Lucas to confirm that after 14 years of friendship, they want something more. It turns out he’s getting married and she’s going to be Best Woman. Shenanigans ensue.
Despite what the plot might hint at, this is not a comedy. The best way I can think to describe it is a soft drama. It engages with very serious topics (see content warning at the end), but it fuzzes the edges a little so your stress levels rarely go up too high. Louis goes out of her way to be gentle on the characters, even when they’re making the wrong choices, acting badly, and betraying one another. It put me of a mind of Jane the Virgin in that way. People’s behaviour generally makes sense with who they are, which I find very satisfying.
This novel is very deep down the Fate Controls Our Lives well. That’s not to say that the characters in this book are just floating on the breeze of fate, quite the contrary. The characters all have been in various ruts and it’s only when they take their lives in their own hands that things start to move in the right direction. Still, by the end of the book, the message is still very much that fate had played a significant role in things in a way that will resonate for some readers and risk cornea damage from eye rolling for others.
Still, at the end of the day, the story is about finding family and happiness in the most unexpected places, and about having the courage to step way outside your comfort zone in service to future you. This strikes me as a great book for the After Times for doing things like getting the courage to go to a restaurant or hug a friend again.
Huge content warning though: it’s strange that hardly any of the reviews I’ve read of this book mention this because it is so central to the story, but there is a sexual assault in this book (many years prior to the start of the story) by an authority figure on a minor. There is, subsequently, intense bullying of the minor, who reported the assault and was promptly outed. The bullying involves a lot of slut shaming and victim blaming from both strangers and people very close to the victim. Details of the assault are kept fairly murky, but what we do know is repeated multiple times throughout the book. These may be very distressing to some readers (and cathartic to others). At one point the book subtly hints at suicidal ideation. The book also deals with parental neglect and abuse.