Reading Guides

Something New
Janis Thomas
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Ellen Ivers has it all—a nice house, great kids, a husband who loves her no matter how much she’s let herself go—but she is completely, utterly bored. Maybe it’s a mid–life crisis, or maybe it’s just time to make a change. She starts taking care of herself and decides to start trying new things. As the pounds melt away, and she begins to feel more comfortable in her own skin, she’s tempted to enter a blog competition. At first Ellen is hesitant; after all, what exactly is she supposed to write about? But soon the words start flowing and she gains confidence, in part because of the attention she’s getting from a handsome detective named Ben Campbell. Both Ben and Ellen are married, and they know their friendship is heading down a dangerous path. Now Ellen finds herself wondering if the life she has is what she really wants, or if something new is exactly what she needs.


Janis Thomas, a native Californian, lives in Orange County with her husband, their two children, and their dog, Ruby. Janis has written over fifty songs and (with her dad) two children’s books, and is also an avid baker. Something New is her debut novel.


  1. Ellen describes herself as bored, and her life as a “suburban cliché.” Is Ellen is going through a mid–life crisis, or does her discomfort stem from something deeper?

  2. Ellen says, “At some point between being a good wife and a good mother and always doing the right thing, I have lost me.” Does Ellen resent being defined as a wife and mother? How does she want to be defined, and how does she see herself? Do you think she is happy with her life?

  3. Jill and Ellen are best friends, although very different. Describe the dynamic of their relationship and why it works. Do you think they would be friends if they weren’t related?

  4. Ellen struggles at first to find a topic to write about in her blog. If you were starting a blog, what would you write about?

  5. Describe Ellen’s tone as a narrator. How does her self–deprecating humor shape her story?

  6. Along those same lines, why do you think Ellen’s blog was so successful with the women who read Ladies Living Well Journal?

  7. Ben teaches Ellen, “If you stop trying new things, you might as well just stop.” Do you agree with this statement? Is it important to try new things all the time?

  8. Explain why Mia’s cautionary tale of her own affair influences Ellen to continue to pursue her affair with Ben. Shouldn’t this revelation have had the opposite effect?

  9. The reader is privy to Ellen’s constant inner conflict. Why do you think Ellen keeps going back to Ben, even when her inner dialogue tells her not to? Overall, why does Ellen stray?

  10. Discuss the theme of reinvention. Is it possible to reinvent yourself? Why or why not?

  11. When Ellen finds the love note in Jonah’s drawer, does this give her a free pass to cheat on him, in her mind? Describe her emotions surrounding the note, up until the end of the story when she confronts Jonah.

  12. Do you believe Ellen’s affair with Ben saved her marriage to Jonah? Why or why not?

  13. Is Ellen a likable character? Does her ability to laugh at herself make you sympathize with her, or does it just hide her unlikable qualities?

  14. Ellen’s final blog describes the lesson she learned from the blog contest and the affair: to love herself. Why is this an important lesson for her?

  15. What do you think the future holds for Ellen and her family? Can Ellen and Ben truly remain “just friends”? Was the author’s ending realistic to you?

  16. Is Ellen’s “something new” the blog, or the affair, or both? How do those two things influence the other?