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Maureen Johnson – The Last Little Blue Envelope

December 12, 2012

134. The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson (2011)
Blue Envelopes, Book 2

Read my review of book:
1. 13 Little Blue Envelopes

Length: 282 pages
Genre: Young Adult, General Fiction

Started: 25 November 2012
Finished: 27 November 2012

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I enjoyed the first book, and everything else of Johnson’s that I’ve read, and was in the mood for something light.

Ginny’s got to go
on a *second* jaunt around
Europe. Poor her, right?

Summary: Ginny spent the summer before her senior year of high school on a madcap trip around Europe, following the instructions left by her Aunt Peg in a series of letters, only to have her backpack stolen before she could read the last one. Now it’s Christmas Break, and she should be working on her college application essays, but then she gets an e-mail from someone named Oliver claiming to have that last letter. On a whim, she returns to England to meet up with Oliver, but it’s not what she’s expecting: he’s got her letters, but the last one contains instructions to assemble one of Aunt Peg’s last pieces of art, and Oliver won’t give Ginny her letters back unless she agrees to split the profits from the sale. But Oliver’s not Ginny’s only surprise: her “kind of something” boyfriend Keith has moved on without telling her, but is still unwilling to let Ginny go gallivanting about the continent with only the mysterious Oliver for company. So it winds up being a party of four (Ginny, Oliver, Keith, and Keith’s girlfriend Ellis) that sets off to follow the last of Aunt Peg’s instructions, although what they find might not be what any of them expected.

Review: I enjoyed this book quite a lot; more than I was expecting to, actually. It’d been about a year and a half since I read 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and while I enjoyed it well enough, I also had some problems with it (namely in the form of “where are your parents?!?” griping). That was also long enough ago that I’d forgotten most of the details of what happens in the first book; luckily, The Last Little Blue Envelope does a good job of bringing readers up to speed. (It also does a good job answering my “where are your parents?” gripe right off the bat by mentioning that Ginny’s eighteen now.)

I think the best way I can describe my reaction to this book is to say that it totally charmed me, even though I could logically sense that it shouldn’t. What I mean is that it’s contemporary YA, so I was expecting some heartbreak and some hijinks and some romance, and while there was all of that, it didn’t come from the places I necessarily expected, nor did it resolve in a typical storybook way, but was all so smart and immediate and funny and emotionally honest that it totally won me over, even when the characters involved weren’t being particularly charming (or even very nice) themselves. Johnson’s characters feel and interact like real people (with the possible exception that Ellis was too nice, all of the time), so it was very easy to connect with Ginny, and to root for her. I also thought that this book was less focused than the first one on the “my dead aunt is giving me self-help seminars about personal growth” aspect of things, which I appreciated, since it made the plot feel somewhat less contrived. The ending was admittedly a little abrupt, but still surprisingly satisfying.

On the whole, this book was exactly what I needed: fun, charming, easy to read, and engaging. 13 Little Blue Envelopes could have stood on its own just fine, but I definitely enjoyed the sequel as well. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Johnson does a nice job of summarizing what’s come before, so this book could be read independently. (Or long enough after the first book that you’ve forgotten almost all the details, like the fact that Keith even existed, *ahem* self.) Recommended for fans of contemporary fiction who are looking for something light, and don’t mind if their reading causes serious cravings for a European vacation.

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

Other Reviews: Anna Reads, Bart’s Bookshelf, The Book Swarm, Good Books and Good Wine, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: It was that time of day again.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2012 8:28 pm

    I love that the book charmed you even though you felt it shouldn’t. I’ve got both of the “Blue Envelope” books and hope to read them soon.

    • December 24, 2012 4:39 pm

      Kathy – I hope you like them! They’re good, light, easy reads, prefect for a reading slump or a bad mood.

  2. December 13, 2012 6:16 pm

    I’ve had just about this exact same reaction to every Maureen Johnson book I’ve read so far. They are quite charming and not always plausible in plot. I do tend to finish them and feel that they should have been something more, though. It feels like all the elements are there and just not coming together quite the way they could.

    • December 24, 2012 4:40 pm

      Jenny – I can see what you mean about all the elements coming together, although I don’t know that I would have picked up on it myself. Have you read Let it Snow? Johnson’s story was my favorite in that one, so maybe it works better in the short form?

  3. December 15, 2012 9:50 am

    Yah, I totally forgot all about Keith as well when I started this book, ha ha.

    It is rather charming and whimsical despite being totally unrealistic.

    • December 24, 2012 4:42 pm

      April – Okay, I’m glad that’s not just me! Although I totally would have believed it was just me, because I’ve got a terrible memory and it’d been a year and a half since I read the first one.

  4. December 23, 2012 6:25 am

    I liked the first book so much more, but enjoyed this one too. I want to read more of Johnson’s work in general though, I like her style!

    • December 24, 2012 4:52 pm

      Joanna – I loved her story in Let it Snow, and thought Name of the Star was really good, but I haven’t read any of her other contemporary YA. One day!

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