13 Little Blue Envelopes 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.

This book would legitimately be the perfect book to translate into a movie. A girl who thinks she’s boring and her life is boring gets a letter from a wacky aunt telling her to leave home, travel to Europe, have crazy adventures, all the while following the instructions left in 13 letters her aunt gave her, and in the process, learns she can be interesting without her aunt? This is pure Hollywood right here.

I honestly cannot say whether I liked or disliked this book. Many people both on and off the internet have said a lot of good things about Maureen Johnson’s books, so I picked up 13 Little Blue Envelopes when I saw it at the library. The premise was really cool and it was executed pretty well. From a plotting perspective, I can see why a lot of people would like this book – travelling around Europe, trusting in the power of 13 letters to guide me, and hopefully learn something about myself in the process sounds pretty appealing to me. You know, so long as I know it turns out all right in the end. The author did a good job capturing the worldwind that comes with travelling without a plan, figuring out what to do from scratch, and interacting with people from all sorts of countries and backgrounds. Also, I really liked the author’s writing. It was quick and breezy, and I flew through the whole book in a day.

On the other hand, the plot was the only reason why I finished the book. Ginny, the protagonist, was like a shadow. Her thoughts were mostly immediate – centered around how she was going to fulfill Aunt Peg’s instructions this time, nagivating which city she was in this time, and processing her interactions with various people. You’d think that you’d learn more about what makes a person tick given the situations Ginny was put in, but she just wasn’t an interesting person to read about. This could have been the point. One of Ginny’s hangups was that she only felt interesting through Aunt Peg, who was anything but boring. However, if that’s so, than that choice didn’t work for me. It made me wish that the story had been told in first person rather than third, just so I could have gotten an idea of what kind of person Ginny actually was.

Also, how the hell was Ginny able to travel to New York and Europe all by herself, and have everything be A. O.K with her parents? Her mom thought Aunt Peg was an irresponsible weirdo, why would she have let her daughter do something similarly weird?

I’m having a really hard time pinning down what exactly makes me unhappy about this book, given that it was reasonably entertaining. Maybe it was the aura of adventure? And, as I said, the premise was really cool. Maybe the fact that I can’t tell whether the book was deliberately trying to be “deep” or whether it legitimately was just a fun, frothy read is what’s messing me up. There were some scenes whose presence was never made clear to me as to why they were there, such as when Ginny’s in the London underground, and she sees an intact pineapple sitting on the rails. It was so out of context from everything else that I could not tell if this was supposed to be a metaphor or just some weird thing Ginny happened to see.

Even though I can’t make head or tail of my reaction to the book, I still wouldn’t mind checking out other books written by the author. When all’s said and done, I did like her writing. Hopefully I’ll be more actively engaged in the next book I read by her instead of passively reading along.

Disclosure – library

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