Oct 25, 2012

Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson


13 Little Blue Envelopes
by Maureen Johnson
Published September 26th 2006 by Harper Teen
Source: library
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Goodreads summary: Inside little blue envelope 1 are $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket.
In envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.
The note in envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.
Because of envelope 4, Ginny and a playwright/thief/ bloke-about-town called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous-though utterly romantic-results. But will she ever see him again?
Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it's all because of the 13 little blue envelopes.
My review: 
Two stars because it was just okay. Thinking about this book makes me tired, and not in the "my mind is reeling it's so good" way. Rather the opposite. Beware, there are probably spoilers all over this review.

I liked the premise, and it started out good, though it fell flat on so many levels. Like when you drop a paper napkin in the water-it gets thinner and thinner until it resolves into a messy goo. I expected a nice heartwarming quest to self discovery across Europe. I got...something unresolved, nonsensical at places with lots of plot holes.

First of all, how many of you would be allowed to travel alone across the ocean with only a backpack and a thousand dollars in your pocket? No cell phone, forbidden to use Internet or even pay phones. Especially in high school. If your mother had her reservations about the pedagogical influence of your flighty and unstable aunt even while she was alive, would she ever even consider letting you undertake that journey? I'm 25, and I imagine my parents would alert Interpol to track me down if I didn't at least text once a week.

Next, back to the pedagogical influence of the aunt. "Invite a complete stranger whose language you don't speak and whose country you don't know to coffee." Ok. Coffee in a public place I can handle. But I think not going to a stranger's apartment is something that applies to New Jersey as much as it applies to Italy, as Ginny comes to realize. And what exactly was the point of seeing the Vestas temple? "Don't die a virgin?" That's a piece of knowledge every aunt should pass on to her niece. Seriously, some of these instructions were disasters waiting to happen.

As a European, I feel that this "touristic" aspect was largely simplified. London is reduced to "big red buses", Netherlands to a "floating house", Italy is horny guys, Gipsies and ice-cream. Plus, I'd like to imagine that American teens would know how to use the shower in London. (Oh, I almost forgot Harrods!)

Next, just how freaking convenient is it that Keith gets gigs in two countries that Ginny herself doesn't even know she's traveling to next?

Another problem, Ginny. If you have a character who is barely able to utter a single sentence whenever she is directly spoken to (she says so herself), just how sympathetic can this character be? I don't think she pronounced one whole sensible sentence in the course of the novel. I didn't feel as if she's learned anything on her trip, and I completely failed to connect with her.

Okay, okay, I'll stop overthinking stuff. It's fiction, it doesn't have to be realistic. But it better be believable. Take it from Annie Wilkes and the King himself.

And no, I absolutely don't feel compelled to find out what was written in The Last Little Blue Envelope.
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