Monday, September 5, 2011

13 Little Blue Envelopes

I have been interested in reading 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson for quite sometime, but everyone talked so much about how frustrating the end was that I decided to wait until the sequel was out too and then read both of the books together.

In 13 Little Blue Envelopes Ginny receives a letter with instructions from her recently deceased Aunt Peg along with $1,000 to buy a plane ticket to London. She is only allowed to bring one bag, no guidebooks, no maps, and she is unable to communicate with US in any fashion. Along the way Ginny is to retrieve a package. This package contains 13 envelopes that she is to open one at a time. Each contains a task she is to complete before she can open the next. The envelopes take her from one place, and one adventure, to the next. (I hate the cover of this first book. They did a much better job with the sequel's cover.)

I was able to sympathize and relate with Ginny right from the start. She is a socially awkward organized girl who always plays by the rules. Yet she is also one who is willing to follow the crazy instructions of her beloved aunt and plunge into the unknown. Her character wasn't as developed as it could have been. A lot of the book was taken up by descriptions of the places Ginny was going and the ins and outs of getting around Europe. In fact, it was almost as if Europe was the main character of the book rather than Ginny. Johnson did a wonderful job describing it and the experience of being in a foreign place without a clue what you are doing very well. The supporting characters were varied and interesting but you never really get a deep insight into any of them either. While I could see why Ginny was attracted to Kieth, a boy she meets in London who shares some of her adventures, I thought he was not a nice person so I wasn't really sympathetic to her angst over him. I think I'm in the minority with that opinion tough.

As for the end, I thought it was perfect. I don't understand why everyone was so up in arms about it. I thought it was reflective of Ginny's relationship with her aunt and how she was moving through her grief over her death. She had to learn how to figure things out for herself and move on without direction. In fact I thought it was so perfect I was almost a little wary to move on to the sequel, but it was there and my curiosity got the better of me.

This next part contains spoilers for the first book but not the second.

As The Last Little Blue Envelope begins Ginny is back home in New Jersey working on her college applications and preparing for Christmas break when she receives an email from a mysterious person named Oliver. The email contains the first part of the last letter. The letter Ginny never read because her bag was stolen in Greece. After a quick phone call to her Uncle Richard Ginny finds herself back in London preparing to meet Oliver and get the letter. But Oliver has other plans. The letter contains directions to a final piece of art Aunt Peg created and Oliver's proposal to Ginny is that they work together and split the profits or she doesn't get the letter. Ginny reluctantly agrees and finds herself on another whirlwind tour of Europe with, not only Oliver, but Kieth and his new girlfriend as well.

I felt that the character development in this one was much better, although I was still frustrated by Ginny's lack of thoughts at some points. This book is far less about the travel and the adventure and more about Ginny and her relationships with the people around her. She also needs to figure out what she wants with her life and this trip helps with that. Kieth continues to prove that, while charismatic, he is not a real nice person. Oliver was an interesting addition but I felt like too much time was spent with Ginny being mad at him rather than trying to figure him out. I would have liked to have gotten to know him better.

The book was far a nice addition to Ginny's story and certainly doesn't detract from it but I'm not convinced it was necessary.

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