Publication Date: October 6th 2009
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.
It really surprised me how underwhelmed I was by 13 Little Blue Envelopes. I really enjoyed The Name of the Star, and there have been many days where Maureen Johnson's tweets were the funniest thing I read all day. I think I would have even given it a 2 of 5 rating if some measure of loyalty to an author I adore hadn't compelled me to add that third star. Now, after stewing on it for almost a month (whew! so sorry for that long absence!), I think it actually deserves all three stars, though I still think there are some major flaws here.
Ginny has got to be one of the dullest main characters I have ever read. She reminds me of the globe trotting girl in Death Cab for Cutie's I Will Possess Your Heart video -- she's going to all these amazing places and seeing all these amazing things and all I can think is "please let me get away from this wet towel so I can see these amazing things!" I understand that grief affects us all differently, but it seems that blindly following her aunt's letters while refusing to really engage in anything isn't remaining true to anything -- herself or her aunt's intentions. Her "romance" (if it can be called that) with Keith didn't even really require her engagement -- it was as contrived and convenient as it was lackluster and boring. Keith was lackluster and boring. As someone who has traveled Europe a few times and as a parent, I also find the premise that Ginny's parents -- who clearly didn't approve of her Aunt Peg's choices -- would suddenly send their teenage daughter off with virtually nothing but a pack of letters from her aunt to be completely impossible.
I also find it interesting that the spectre of Aunt Peg ends up being the most interesting part of the entire book. When I first finished 13 Little Blue Envelopes, I felt that Aunt Peg was an odd variation of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She existed solely to come into both Ginny and Richard's lives and shake them up; make them see the world differently. However, after further reflection I think that, though she may have been a MPDG for Ginny, there seemed to have been more awareness and development in the relationship between Richard and Peg -- hence the third star.
13 Little Blue Envelopes was a light and quick read. Johnson's writing style covered a multitude of character and plot flaws, making the book continue to be a fairly enjoyable -- if completely improbable and forgettable -- read. I don't think I would recommend 13 Little Blue Envelopes to young readers; however, it has done nothing to prevent me from continuing to wholeheartedly recommend Maureen Johnson.
3 of 5 Stars
Rhi found redeeming qualities.