Well, I have been an absolute reading fiend lately, with little else to do apart from housework, baby care, and seeing friends. The latest entry into the book challenge scene is Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes, which I read as a young adult choice for the TwentyTen Reading Challenge. After reading Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, I wanted something similarly fun to read, and picked up several different books, but nothing really appealed to me. A voice in my head kept saying “13 Little Blue Envelopes” which I had tried to read several times in the past, but couldn’t get into. I listened to the voice and devoured this book in a scant two days!
From Maureen Johnson’s website comes this synopsis:
Aunt Peg, the New York artist and the person Ginny Blackstone depended on to make her life interesting, took off to Europe without a word three years ago. Aside from a few postcards, Ginny hasn’t heard much. Then she gets a horrible phone call that changes everything. Soon after, Ginny receives one little blue envelope from Aunt Peg containing a thousand dollars and some very strange instructions… And with that, she is sent off to pick up a package containing twelve similar envelopes, which she can open one by one, as instructed. Each letter contains a task that Ginny must perform. Soon, the mild-mannered and quiet Ginny (who’s barely made it out of New Jersey before) finds herself running from London to Paris to Rome, and beyond. Along the way, she collects a number of new friends, including: a manager from Harrods department store who runs errands for the rich and famous, a handsome but maddening thief-turned-playwright, a celebrity painter who tattoos the names of her dead pets on her body, and the angriest vegetable salesman in all of France. As time goes on, Ginny realizes that her aunt has sent her on a mission, and that there is something big waiting for her in the thirteenth envelope. All she has to do is make it from place to place and complete all of the tasks that have been set before her. As if life is that easy.
I thought that this was a great book for teen girls to read. Who among us didn’t dream of taking off to someplace amazing and living out of a backpack for a summer while visiting all the crown heads of Europe (or maybe in your case it was Asia or Africa or South America?). I know I certainly did, and for three weeks in 1991, I got to live that dream. But my adventure was mild compared to the adventure Aunt Peg sends Ginny on as she scours Europe for a starving artist, a man named Piet, a Parisian cafe decorated with garbage, and so on. I really related to Ginny in many ways and I think I would probably have been very similar to her had someone set out this adventure for me.
She learns a lot about herself and about her missing aunt, about the world, and about people. It was a sweet little book, hardly the best one I’ve read, but I would definitely recommend it and would read it again someday if I find myself in the mood for a travel fantasy. I’m rating it 4stars on GoodReads, but I’m getting concerned I have a lot of 4 star reads!!! Still, this book made me very happy, so I hope you’ll enjoy it as well!