13 Little Blue Envelopes-Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: 2005
Source: Paperback Swap
Seventeen-year-old Ginny had always admired her aunt Peg, a free-spirited artist who often disappeared for months, most recently to Europe. Now Aunt Peg has died of brain cancer, and in a characteristically cryptic gesture made before her death, she arranged for her niece to receive a plane ticket to London, where Ginny will begin a series of adventures. Guided by Peg's friends and the instructions in each of 13 letters her aunt wrote, Ginny sets off across Europe. Staying with Peg's contacts or in hostels, Ginny begins to peel away some of the mythic layers surrounding her aunt, even as she falls into thrilling escapades and a blossoming romance. Johnson's plot stretches plausibility. Would Ginny's practical mother really have agreed to such a solo, undefined journey? But readers will probably overlook any improbabilities and willingly accompany Ginny through her sensitive, authentically portrayed experiences--uncomfortable, lonely, giddy, and life changing--as she pieces together family mysteries and discovers herself.
I have to say that I love the premise of this book. I love the air of mystery and the tasks that Ginny has to do in order to open the next envelope. Ginny meets interesting people and has wonderful, sometimes whimsical adventures as each envelope leads her towards a new location.
That said, I had some issues with this book. The first being the total lack of character development. We really know nothing about Ginny except that her aunt is dead, she's a teenager, and she's from New Jersey. There's only a sentence or two about her parents, and no mention about what they think about her adventure. My parents let me do a lot when I was a teenager, but I still don't think they would have let me jaunt off to Europe without staying in close contact-even if that meant sending a postcard home every few days.
Ginny seemed so bland she was almost like a protagonist in a Choose Your Own Adventure book (which I loved, by the way), in that they're not really a character at all, and you're supposed to imagine yourself in their place. The people she meets along the way are a lot more interesting than she is, and you can't help but wish that you'd tag along with them instead of Ginny.
Another issue was the amount of money Ginny had to take with her. It was pretty unbelievable-especially coming to Europe as an American, everything is insanely expensive-even if you are lucky enough to have people to stay with occasionally.
I did enjoy the book overall, especially for the European travel descriptions. I would recommend it, but I had to point out the issues I had with it.