Monday, June 6, 2011

Book Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Pages: 336
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Pub. Date: October 1, 2006
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "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."

Ginny has 13 blue envelopes from her deceased aunt with important messages written inside.  First, she must buy a ticket to London and follow all of her aunt's directions, which are in the envelopes in chronological order.  The directions from her aunt challenge Ginny to break out of her shell and experience some of her aunt's adventurous life in Europe.  13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson made me pine for a European adventure of my own.

Ginny is a likable character for the most part.  Although she initially seems very quiet and shy, you have to give her credit as she is daring enough to travel to Europe by herself without a set plan as her aunt is pretty much dictating her itinerary.  The supporting characters were also interesting, especially Keith. I really enjoyed the character of Keith and I hope he is in the sequel. Lastly, I loved Ginny's eccentric Aunt Peg. She's the aunt that everyone dreams they could have. She's a true free spirit and I enjoyed learning more about her and her unconventional way of life.

My favorite part of 13 Little Blue Envelopes was, of course, all the traveling that Ginny took part in.  Since I just got back from Italy a little over a month ago, I was especially interested in Ginny's adventures in Rome.  I loved Johnson's descriptions of all the famous cities in Europe; it definitely had me living vicariously through Ginny and dreaming of another European vacation.

My one issue with the book was the fact that for the most part, I felt it was unrealistic.  I don't know about you, but there is no way my parents would have let me go alone to Europe as a teenager. I don't think I would even do that now as I am more comfortable traveling in a group or with at least one other person. I think it makes the experience that much more richer when you have others to share it with. Now granted Ginny did have other people she met and was traveling around with from time to time, but initially this was a trip designed for just her. How could her family not freak out? And she barely communicated with her family while on the trip!  I personally wouldn't advise a young girl to travel to various European cities on her own, but hey, maybe that's just me.

Now don't get me wrong, because I love the idea of a deceased family member leaving a close relative with something like this.  It's all very P.S. I Love You and because of that very aspect of the story, I was hooked.

Once you get past some of the unrealistic parts of 13 Little Blue Envelopes, readers will fall in love with Ginny's adventure.  Whenever you travel, you not only learn a lot about life, but about yourself too and ultimately, that's what happens for Ginny.  I can't wait to see where her journey takes her next in the sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope, which came out in April. I plan to read it this summer!


  1. Oh, I really like the sound of this one because of the travel aspect. I love it when books take place in to die for locations. I think I might check this one out. I am always adding books to my wishlist after I read your reviews!

  2. This has been on my shelf for quite some time, but for some reason I just haven't picked it up yet. I agree that the premise of a teenager heading of to Europe all alone does sound a little unrealistic. Great review!

  3. This looks like such a cute book! I'm going to have to add it to my TBR pile. Thanks for the review.

  4. This does sound like a really cute story and I love books that deal with a lot of traveling, it's so fun to read about different places and have them be like characters themselves. I'm with you though, my parents would never have let me travel Europe alone. Definitely with a group, but never alone:)

  5. COuldn't agree more with your review--once you get past the unrealistic premise that Ginny would have her family's blessing to travel the world solo, it was completely engaging. I loved how the physical journey mirrored her interior one. Overall, I think it's better and more satisfying than its sequel, which just came out this year, but both are good books.

    I enjoy reading paranormal sometimes, but that genre has recently so dominated young adult fiction to the point that it's refreshing (and increasingly difficult) to find a realistic novel for teens that is neither "issue" driven, nor romance driven.

  6. I have passed on this one many times because the synopsis didn't hook me but I may just have to look into it more after your review! I have been to Europe so it would be cool to know what Ginny is describing. =)

  7. Thanks for the great review! i've had this book for years but haven't had a chance to read it

  8. I just finished reading this yesterday, and totally agree with your review! There is no way I could imagine letting a young girl travel around, stay with strangers etc, have no contact for that length of time!

  9. I agree with you on the unrealistic aspect of the book, but I loved it too! I read it soon after a family trip to Europe and I felt like I was going back on vacation. Great review!


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