13 Little Blue Envelopes

Published August 7, 2011 by myliteraryleanings

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Review from www.bn.com:

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.

My Review:

Please excuse this departure from my usual style.  I normally start with my own summary of the book as well as quoting the overview from www.bn.com, which I did above.  This time however, instead, I wanted to begin with a quote from the book that I think sums it up better than the above one from www.bn.com did.  Also, I am not sure if my summary could do as good of a job conveying the plot of this book as well as the character of it as this one quote from the book.  Tell me what you think when you’re done reading.

“Aunt Peg was simply gone.  Then came a few postcards, basic assurances that she was doing well.  They were postmarked from a variety of places- England, France, Italy- but they contained no explanations.

So Aunt Peg was exactly the kind of person who would send her to England alone, with a package from a Chinese restaurant.  That wasn’t so odd.

The odd part was that Aunt Peg had been dead for three months.” p. 13

Thus begins Ginny’s odyssey across Europe beginning with London where she meets Aunt Peg’s London roommate, Richard.  Were they just friends or something more?  This is one of many questions that Ginny wants to uncover as she follows the instructions left for her by her late Aunt Peg inside of thirteen different little blue envelopes.

I have to say that I loved this book.  It had some downsides to be sure, and I will be glad to list them later.  But overall, it was a fun ride.   Although I have been to some of these countries already, I learned some things I never knew about some of them.  The best part about this whole book was two-fold.  First, the wacky characters that Ginny meets up with as she travels.  Second, always wondering what Ginny’s zany aunt would want her to do next.

The instructions were always in the next blue envelope but there were two rules.  Ginny was not allowed to open the next one until Aunt Peg said it was ok which was usually right after she completed her task in the previous envelope, and she was not allowed to communicate electronically with anyone back in the USA.

After showing up on Richard’s doorstep to ask him what he sold to the queen, she is told to sponsor an artist.  Seems easy, right?  However, finding a worthy candidate proved to be more difficult than she thought.  She eventually finds her man in a local arts student who produces, writes and stars in “Starbucks the musical.”

This tidbit cracked me up, especially when one of the main characters get shot repeatedly yet never dies.  I thought to myself that it sounded stupid and that maybe Ginny had picked the wrong candidate.  Yet for better or worse, he’s her guy and his name is Keith.  She helps him break a school record by making him the first person to sell out the school auditorium in the school’s entire history.  He wants to pay her back by buying her a beer at a pub and is somewhat shocked that she is allowed in.

After this first episode in the bar, Ginny realizes that she has a crush on Keith.  So when Keith invites her to go up to his show in Edinburgh she doesn’t hesitate.  As it turns out, this is the very place Aunt Peg is sending her to next.  After meeting a surreal artist in Edinburgh, she heads off to Rome, the next place Aunt Peg is sending her and then to Paris.  The funny thing is she doesn’t seem to go to the these places in any particular order.  Just like her aunt’s travels, Ginny flits back and forth across Europe.

Ginny’s haphazard travels remind me of the first downside that came to mind as I read this book- she doesn’t seem old enough to be travelling alone.  I mean isn’t there some kind of a law that you must have a note from your parents or something when you’re under age and going abroad?  Maybe not.  I guess I wouldn’t know though since I was not able to travel out of the country until I was much older.  The book relates Ginny’s shock that Keith’s roommate’s girlfriend can decide to do pretty much anything she wants despite her young age.

“Who just decided they were going to work in Spain?  Ginny hadn’t even been allowed to get a job until last summer, and that was only at the SnappyDrug down the street…. And here was Fiona, who couldn’t be much older than she was, running of to sunny Spain.  Ginny tried to imagine that conversation.  I’m so sick of the mall… Think I’ll go get a job at that Gap in Madrid.

Everyone’s else’s life was more interesting than hers.”  p. 62

There were some other parts two that were a little too risqué for me.  Maybe I am not hip or with it, but there were certain moments that were uncomfortable for me to be reading and imagining.   But what saved it for me was that they were brief and not overdone.  The book touched on some serious moments but thank God they were not too heavy-handed to ruin the fun attitude of the book.

The book also had some disappointments  a guy who she was supposed to meet in Holland turned out to be MIA and one of the blue envelopes got lost but Ginny took it all in stride.  Of course I guess she had to since she couldn’t really do anything about it.

I also found out something cool when I went to www.bn.com.  The book has a sequel that came out in 2010.  As you might have guessed if you read my other posts- I got this as a free e-book on a Free Friday from Barnes & Noble but I think I just might shell out the money for the next book in the series myself.  I enjoyed it that much and would love to go on another adventure with Ginny.  I think most anyone else who read this book would say the same thing.

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One comment on “13 Little Blue Envelopes

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