Title: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Series: Little Blue Envelope, #1
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Release Date: August 23rd, 2005
Length: 322 pages | 6 hours 53 minutes
When Ginny receives thirteen little blue envelopes and instructions to buy a plane ticket to London, she knows something exciting is going to happen. What Ginny doesn’t know is that she will have the adventure of her life and it will change her in more ways than one. Life and love are waiting for her across the Atlantic, and the thirteen little blue envelopes are the key to finding them in this funny, romantic, heartbreaking novel.
I purchased 13 Little Blue Envelopes years ago, because I loved Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star (which I need to re-read, and then finish the series). She has this uniquely realistic but charming way of writing about being an American teen in Europe. You can feel that it’s based on her real life adventures, because the good and bad bits are never strained or overly intense. In the case of 13 Little Blue Envelopes, it makes for a swift and sweet read.
Ginny is not a protagonist I cared much about- she’s a sweet girl, awkward and silent (in a way that, to me, came across as rude), who hasn’t properly grieved for her dead aunt yet. I didn’t relate or admire, but she was portrayed realistically (if a bit shallowly). Probably the biggest thing that ruffled my feathers is how Ginny wasted her time in Europe. Where Peggy was the essence of joire d’vivre and a bit nutty, Ginny seems to not occupy the space she’s in. She experiences little to no sense of wonder or curiosity about the places she’s in- she’s focused on completed the task ahead of her. She doesn’t seem to pine for home, either, so I don’t understand her tunnel vision. She’s in Europe, for the first time and maybe the last time in her life. When I was 16 and in Europe, I’m sure I wasted some opportunities. BUT I was in awe of everything. I tried the food, I talked to locals, I explored the towns, I did everything I could to experience it. Ginny goes to the place and does the task and opens the next envelope and leaves. WTF, girl?
OK, that beef aside, there is a subtle bit of her changing at the end. It’s very subtle. That makes it more realistic, but I was hoping for a bit more. I hope that, off the page, Ginny is becoming more adventurous and taking charge of her future. I hope she’s keeping in touch with the Australians and with Keith (although not with the Knapps- yikes). I hope she’s learning to be her own person. But mostly….I want to go back to Europe after reading this.
If you’re looking for a sweet, contemporary YA that isn’t entirely focused on romance or a journey of self-awareness or an adventure, but has elements of all three of those, this is a solid read. It’s probably most appropriate for teenagers and young twenty-somethings, more than for bitter old broads like myself. 😉