13 Little Blue Envelopes

Posted August 30, 2012 by Tara in Review /// 8 Comments

I’m pretty sure Ginny didn’t pack those clothes in her backpack.

13 Little Blue Envelopes
by Maureen Johnson
E-book from public library
[#56 in my 75 book challenge]

I don’t know about you, but I hear about this book all the time on the internet. I’ve always felt like everyone has read and loved it. When I got the chance to check out the ebook from the public library, I jumped on it so I could finally check it off the TBR list.

Ginny Blackstone has a crazy aunt Peg who, after disappearing for a very long time, has passed away. Aunt Peg has sent Ginny a set of thirteen blue letters, each carefully numbered, to be opened in order. Each envelope contains a task that Ginny must complete before she opens the next envelope. The first letter instructs Ginny to buy a plane ticket to London (with cash provided) and pack only was she can stuff in a backpack. Thus, Ginny is off on a European adventure where she doesn’t even know where she’s going, who she’ll meet, or what she’ll do along the way.

Okay. I’ll buy the premise of a seventeen-year-old being allowed to go on such a journey, and a crazy aunt having the time/money/creativity/foresight to create such a journey in the first place. Ginny’s adventure certainly is a fun one, and an adventure I’d like to have taken in high school or college. The whole novel is just wish fulfillment packaged in a cute story. I enjoyed it…really, I did…but it also felt kind of “meh.” I saw a lot of the story coming from a mile away, and I didn’t find Ginny to be a terribly interesting character. Ginny spent all this great time in Europe  and only got to see the things someone else wanted her to see. She sort of comes into her own throughout the story, but I kept wanting her to go places and see things that she never got to see.

Of course, it can’t be ignored that the novel does have a sequel. The Last Little Blue Envelope came out this past year, and continues the somewhat-unresolved plots from the first novel. I’m not going to say I won’t read it, since I might, but I’m not rushing out to buy it right now because I justcan’twaittofindoutwhathappensnext.

FINAL GRADE:   C+*    Overall, it’s a light, fun little book that tries to be deep, but just doesn’t quite get there. That’s okay, but it wasn’t really what I was looking for. Maybe it could be appreciated more by middle and high school students who don’t have much life experience and want to travel vicariously through Ginny. Considering how much buzz I see about this book and Maureen Johnson in general (I did love The Name of the Star), I can safely say that I would feel comfortable putting it in my middle school library and recommending it to kids. At the very least it might teach some European geography or inspire some wanderlust! And speaking of wanderlust, I’d recommend it to adult fans who love wanderlust-y books!

*Bonus points for having a minor GLBT character. GLBT characters always win bonus points with me!

Have you read 13 Little Blue Envelopes? Am I being too harsh?


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

Tags: , , , , , , /// 8 Comments

8 responses to “13 Little Blue Envelopes

  1. I felt the exact same way about this book, but because I was younger when I read it (3rd grade-ish) I though every book I read was amazing. Now it’s different for me. I really love your posts, and I think (I’m pretty sure) you’re the first book blog I’ve ever followed. (:

  2. I was so glad when I read this review, because I felt the same and yet everyone else I knew who had read it seemed to love it, which made me think I had missed something huge. I didn’t get to grips with Ginny at all, I thought she seemed very flat, and although she went to all these amazing places, I felt like as a reader I didn’t get a feel for them at all, and didn’t recognise the cities I was familiar with (with the exception of London, and I understand Maureen Johnson spends a lot of time there). I enjoyed Name of the Star more, but this one really didn’t do much for me. Hope you enjoy your next book more! 🙂

  3. looseleafbri

    Oddly enough this post makes me want to read the book to see for myself. Oh dear. I just started following you but if I am going to want to read every book you review I might have to quit my job.

  4. I don’t think you’re being too harsh at all. I read this and felt the same way. It was a cute story and premise, but it was very predictable. I gave the same rating of 3 stars to this book and the sequel.

  5. I love MJ’s books, especially The Bermudez Triangle and Devilish, but with 13 Little Blue Envelopes I felt kinda let down. I had the sequel at hand, so I read it, too, but it was almost worse than 13LBE… not exactly bad, but, just, you know, meh.

Leave a Reply