Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes is a young adult novel about 17-year-old Ginny Blackstone, who is shy, unassuming, and has pretty much never done anything exciting. Her Aunt Peg, on the other hand, was a flaky, nomadic adventurer who often disappeared overseas for months at a time without her family knowing where she was. Shortly before the novel opens, Ginny's family receives word that Peg has unexpectedly died. A few weeks later, Ginny gets a package from her deceased aunt containing thirteen blue envelopes, to be opened in order. They contain directions for Ginny to take a journey through her Aunt Peg's footsteps in Europe. If she follows the plan, Ginny will be taken to places that were special to Peg, meet Peg's European friends, and find out more about herself on the way. The "rules" set out in the first letter are as follows:
- Rule #1: You may bring only what fits in your backpack. Don't try to fake it with a purse or a carry-on.
- Rule #2: You may not bring guidebooks, phrase books, or any kind of foreign language aid. And no journals.
- Rule #3: You cannot bring extra money or credit/debit cards, traveler's checks, etc. I'll take care of all that.
- Rule #4: No electronic crutches. This means no laptop, no cell phone, no music, and no camera. You can't call home or communicate with people in the U.S. by Internet or telephone. Postcards and letters are acceptable and encouraged.
So, there you go. A 17-year-old girl, traveling alone in Europe with no guidebooks, no money, and no way to contact people back home -- all while following crazy directions from her dead aunt. That's what's going on in 13 Little Blue Envelopes.
I have to say, I really loved this story. It's an interesting premise, and Johnson is a fantastic descriptor. You can tell she has spent time in Europe, because the way she writes about Ginny's trip makes you feel like you're right along with her. The fact that Ginny herself doesn't know what the next step of her journey will be is what keeps you turning the pages. You find yourself wondering what exotic place Peg will send her next, and what strange characters she'll meet on the way.
This is written for the young adult/teenage crowd, so it's a simple read. I didn't really find the story itself all that juvenile. It has all the elements that a young adult novel should -- adventure, uncertainty, angst, a little bit of a romance... And while we're on the subject of that last one, the guy that Ginny falls head over heels for is really annoying. I don't get the attraction, so I could for sure do without that part of the book.
There's a soon-to-be released sequel called The Last Little Blue Envelope. I won't spoil anything about the first book, but let me just say that there doesn't have to be a sequel. The title of the second book might lead you to believe that 13 Little Blue Envelopes is left wide open with no resolution, but that's not the case. It could stand alone and still be great. I would recommend this as a short, easy read when you're in the mood for something light and enjoyable.
Read from April 24, 2001 to April 30, 2011