Book Review: ’13 Little Blue Envelopes’ by Maureen Johnson #NARC13

Book Cover: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen JohnsonThe Low Down: Ginny receives a package from her aunt. The package holds thirteen envelopes, each containing a letter to Ginny; instructions which take her to places she’s never been in a way that she isn’t one hundred percent comfortable. Ginny’s Aunt Peg was always the drifter, the artist…moving on to the next thing, never staying in the same place for long. And now she’s asking Ginny to follow her requests to the letter. Ginny could just open up all of the letters immediately, because who would know? Her aunt is dead.

Something makes Ginny give in to her aunt’s final request, and with money from Peg, she buys a plane ticket, grabs her passport and is off to meet someone named Richard who lives in London, the place where Aunt Peg passed away.

What follows is an adventure that Ginny would never have thought up (or done) herself; a sort of “this is what I did after I left the US” tour that not only will help explain some things about her aunt, but make her learn new things about herself.

Best Thang ‘Bout It: What a wonderful idea for a story. I would consider this to be a book that falls into the New Adult category, with all of the thought-provoking questions, the moving on into adulthood that Ginny does on her trip. In my mind, New Adult shouldn’t be a tag that warns readers that there is going to be graphic sex in the book; it can include that, of course, but also the moniker needs to cover all things that mean moving from high school student to being on your own. Since there is very little (if any) discussion of parents or any parental involvement, I am assuming that Ginny is considered to be an adult here.

Of course I love the travel, the fact that she would have never chosen to take this adventure. The part where she stays with the Knapp family in Amsterdam is very funny.

I’m Cranky Because: I couldn’t get a handle on what these people looked like or how old anyone was. I know it was mentioned (fleetingly) in the beginning that Ginny is 17, but I had no idea if she was in school, if she had a dad…there were so many unanswered questions (or, the answers were “hidden” in the text without much fanfare). Sometimes you know, as a reader, that these things don’t matter, and that’s OK. Here, though, it felt incomplete.

Ginny always seemed like a cipher to me. She was a ghost, a plastic grocery bag getting blown from place to place. Absolutely, part of the charm of the book was her not knowing what each letter held; she was a captive of her aunt’s choices. But I wanted her to be more flesh and blood than she was. Other than the broad strokes (she’s shy, she’s quiet, she’s predictable, etc.) I never felt like she was someone solid.

I didn’t realize that there was a sequel, but regardless, the ending left a lot of the smaller things unresolved, like they weren’t important. I want to read a second book because I liked the first one so much and I want to know more and be in the presence of those characters longer. I don’t like when things are left hanging. I feel a little jerked around when that happens.

The Bottom Line: An enjoyable book, for sure, but not something I would rush to read.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson was published December 21, 2010 by HarperTEEN. Ink and Page picked this book up from the library, so no one had a choice about whether it was reviewed.

Rating: 3

Genre: New Adult Young Adult Fiction Contemporary Romance Series
Ages: 12 and up
You Might Want to Know: Nothing of note

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