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Maureen Johnson – 13 Little Blue Envelopes

May 11, 2011

58. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (2005)
Little Blue Envelopes, Book 1

Length: 336 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fiction

Started: 22 April 2011
Finished: 23 April 2011

Where did it come from? Bought from Bookcloseouts / Free Kindle download.
Why do I have it? Maureen’s story in Let it Snow was my favorite, so I wanted to read more of her work.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 20 February 2009.

Most envelopes that
I get are just credit card
application forms.

Summary: Ginny Blackstone’s Aunt Peg was always a free spirit, an artist, and a traveler. She died a few months ago, but she’s left behind something for Ginny: a series of envelopes. The first one contains $1000, and instructions to get a passport and buy a ticket to London, with strict guidelines: she can only bring what she can fit in a backpack, no guidebooks or maps, no cell phones or credit cards or cameras, no communication with anyone back in the US. Once she’s completed that task, she can open the second envelope. Ginny’s not a world traveler, and is extremely shy around strangers, but as her aunt’s letters lead her on a series of increasingly strange lessons around Europe, she (very slowly) starts to come out of her shell.

Review: Yet another book that it seems like a lot of people LURVED, and I just liked. It was definitely a fun read, and I tore through it in less than a day. It’s well-written, it’s funny, it’s got a good ear for dialogue, and it definitely inspired a serious case of wanderlust – I want to go backpacking through Europe! Where’s my rich eccentric aunt? The romance angle isn’t really the main focus of the story, but was cute nevertheless. But despite it being enjoyable overall, I had two problems that kept me from getting totally involved in the story.

First, I wasn’t crazy about the decision to start the book right as Ginny embarks on her trip. Because we don’t get the chance to know anything about Ginny pre-travel (although we can infer from things that happen later), it makes it harder to see how she’s changing over the course of her journey, and thus I never entirely identified with her. Second, where the hell were Ginny’s parents? From what we’re told about her mom’s relationship with her Aunt Peg, there’s no way in the world her mother would be like “So, you’re going to Europe alone, with no cash, no means of communicating with home, and no idea of where you’re going to be or where you’re going to be staying, and you’ll be gone for some indefinite amount of time, all because your dead aunt said so in a letter? Sure, honey, have fun!” It may be a relatively minor point in a book that’s really all about Ginny’s adventures along the way, but it still bugged me, because I am a) old, and b) apparently turning into my mother (who, for what it’s worth, would probably have let me seventeen-year-old me go alone to Europe, but would have demanded regular phone calls.) 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: So, overall, I enjoyed it, but there were a few sticking points that kept me from being head-over-heels about it. Recommended for people who like contemporary YA and are planning (or daydreaming about) a European vacation.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Bart’s Bookshelf, BookNAround, Books Lists Life, Bookshelves of Doom, Em’s Bookshelf, Good Books and Good Wine, It’s All About Books, Piling on the Books, Presenting Lenore, S. Krishna’s Books, Stella Matutina, Write Meg, The Zen Leaf
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Dear Ginger, I have been a great follower of rules.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2011 7:00 am

    I was more on the like than the lurve side as well. But I still want to read the sequel!

    • May 13, 2011 11:50 am

      Nymeth – I’ll read the sequel, for sure, but I think I’ll probably get it from the library.

  2. May 11, 2011 7:23 am

    I got this on my Kindle but haven’t had time to read it yet. :)

    • May 13, 2011 11:54 am

      christina – I was surprised at how fast it went! It definitely kept me reading.

  3. May 11, 2011 1:51 pm

    I think a while back they were giving this book away for free on the Kindle so I picked it up then. I haven’t heard anything about the book but i’ve seen the name Maureen Johnson enough times to warrant picking it up (again, for free).

    I might read it. I might not. That’s where I currently stand on this book.

    • May 13, 2011 11:56 am

      Colin – Fair enough! I think it’s a good book to have around for any time that your brain just can’t handle anything more complex or serious – for on a plane or napping in a hammock, maybe. :)

  4. May 11, 2011 2:11 pm

    I got this when it was free for Kindle too. It sounds like a book I would enjoy!

  5. May 11, 2011 2:58 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with your dislikes, especially the lack of parents/weird Peg rules. I get that the story wouldn’t be quite as quick or fun if Ginny had to call her parents every six hours or whatever, but I certainly wouldn’t let my hypothetical teenager go even fifty miles away without at least giving me the “Hey, I’m here and alive” heads-up. Ah, well. At least everything works out for the best!

    • May 13, 2011 12:01 pm

      Alison – I think a lot of my problems could have been solved by starting the story a few days earlier, when Ginny got the first letter, and letting us see her mom in person and maybe hearing some of that discussion.

  6. May 13, 2011 3:20 pm

    I was on the LURVE side of 13LBE, but I didn’t have any problems relating to Ginny, my parents let me run wild in high school.

    • May 14, 2011 5:17 pm

      April – It’s not so much the lack of parental oversight that bothered me, it’s that the lack of parental oversight didn’t square with what we’re told about her mom’s personality and relationship with Aunt Peg.

Trackbacks

  1. REVIEW: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson » Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog

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