I finally read a book by Maureen Johnson!
Inside little blue envelope 1 are $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket.
In envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.
The note in envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.
Because of envelope 4, Ginny and a playwright/thief/ bloke-about-town called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous-though utterly romantic-results. But will she ever see him again?
Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it’s all because of the 13 little blue envelopes.
I have heard great things about Maureen Johnson’s books and I’ve had my eyes on this one for a while before realizing that it was one of Johnson’s. I was immediately caught by the premise of a sort of scavenger hunt, it automatically made me think of the 39 Clues or National Treasure, which I love! The idea of someone sending characters on a search to find something valuable is just so much fun!
In 13 Little Blue Envelopes the valuable “item” isn’t literal its the idea of finding out who you are. Ginny, the teenage main character, is not confident in herself at all. In fact, she believes that her life isn’t interesting unless her Aunt Peg is involved. You can really see how much Ginny admired and cared for her aunt, and how confused she was when Peg disappeared from her life.
Although Johnson touches on pretty heavy themes of death and grief, she manages to create a read that is very light and breezy, like I imagine a summer on the Mediterranean would feel. I was never overwhelmed by the grief Ginny has at the loss of her aunt, which is a good thing because, as I’ve mentioned before, I dislike books that make me cry!
I will say that Maureen Johnson’s writing style is not what I’m used to and it took me a little bit to get into the story, but once I did I was hooked. Johnson is hilarious and there were multiple scenes and situations that make me chuckle. My favorite was Ginny’s embarrassing experience in the Richard’s squeaky bathtub. As one who is afraid of bathroom noises (any people hearing them!) this scene had me cringing and laughing at the same time! Also, I really enjoyed all the different supporting characters that Ginny meets along the way from the stressful family in Amsterdam to the creepy guy in Italy, each person has a role to play in Ginny’s experience.
I’ve read some reviews where readers complain that they went through most of the book feeling like they didn’t know anything about the main character. I would agree with this. Johnson doesn’t give up a lot of inner monologue or detailed information about who Ginny is and what she’s thinking, so in some way, we’re very limited in understanding of Ginny. But I do think that’s the point. Ginny doesn’t know much about herself either; she’s doing a lot of self discovery on this trip that Aunt Peg has sent her on. That’s why Peg as sent Ginny on his trip in the first place!
I’ve also seen some readers complaining about the fact that 13 Little Blue Envelopes is non realistic; suggesting that no parent would ever let their teenage daughter jaunt around Europe alone with no cellphone or contact with home. Yes, they’re probably right. But that’s what I love about fiction. It doesn’t have to be reality! It’s okay, I don’t think Johnson is suggesting that this is or should be the parental norm. Lets just enjoy a nice story and not worry about the details all the time!
In the end, I was pleased with this story and really want to read the sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope. I’d recommend 13 Little Blue Envelopes to older middle school readers and up who love traveling and a good coming of age story.
I wish someone would send me to Europe!
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperTeen (August 23, 2005)
Format: Hardcover (Library Bound)
Length: 366 pages
Series: First in a two book series
Buy the Book: 13 Little Blue Envelopes