Monday, April 16, 2012

Abducted by 13 Little Blue Envelopes

13 Little Blue Envelopes is a charming novel by Maureen Johnson, about a seventeen year old girl named Ginny. Her favorite aunt has passed away and has left behind a collection of...well, you probably guessed it...13 little blue envelopes. Each envelope contains a letter with instructions for Ginny to follow, and each of the instructions propels her on an elaborate adventure that takes her all across Europe.

At first, the fact that Ginny was traveling all across Europe following the whim of her crazy aunt, was a tough pill for me to swallow. I have seen the movie Taken and there is no way in hell that I would ever let my teenage daughter travel around Europe with no definite plan in place!!! NO. WAY. IN. HELL!!!

In the first letter, Peg (Ginny's aunt) explains that Ginny must travel to Europe without her laptop or cell phone! She can't take guide books or money or reservations for places to stay. She isn't allowed to call home at all during the trip! The most she is allowed to do is write hand written letters! Which, I will give you, is far more romantic then electronic communication, but they take a hell of a lot longer to cross that big freaking ocean! So, again I say, if I were ever a parent, there is no way I would allow this!

One of the first places that Ginny has to go when she arrives in London (her first destination) is the home of this man named Richard, who turns out to be a friend of Peg's. When Ginny gets there, Richard is almost on his way out the door to go to work. The letter had told Ginny, that in case no one answered the door immediately, she was to stay there and continue knocking until someone finally did answered. What if she had missed him? What if he had already left for work? She would have been left sitting on his doorstep for hours!!!

I should also warn you that I am not much of an adventure seeker. I do want to travel, desperately. I want to see Italy and Ireland and Greece! Shoot, right now I would settle for Boston or Washington DC! But I am a planner! I would read up on all those places like crazy! I would plan my trip with a travel agency and make sure that I had hotels reserved and tours of the Vatican lined up. I would never be the person to just show up unannounced and trust that it would all work out!

So, again, like I said, it took me a while to get passed the absurdity of this trip Ginny was taking, but when I did there really was a moving story underneath it all.

Peg passed away from a brain tumor, and even though she was very close to Ginny, in the years leading up to her passing she had pulled away from her family. Peg reaches out to Ginny through this trip and uses her letters to help explain who she really was to Ginny. To bond herself to Ginny and to open up Ginny's world.

That was the part of the story that I was able to connect to.

My grandfather died in 2007 and I still miss him deeply. He loved to travel. He was in the Air Force so he already traveled a lot, but he also traveled on his own for pleasure. My grandfather was born here, in Oklahoma, but both of his parents were born in Germany and that was one of his favorite places in the world. In May of 1986 he took a trip to Germany and at each of the restaurants that he visited he kept a coaster and wrote on it what he had ordered. I got to keep them when we cleaned out his office and I have always thought it would be amazing to go to Germany and go to one of those restaurants and order the same meal that he had.

Of course, as soon as I was able to make that connection to the book, Maureen Johnson had me! By the end of the novel she almost had me in tears...almost!

I didn't particularly love the characters. Except for Richard, I did love Richard! Keith, the main love interest, was fine. He was likable and all, but not all together that charming. I did agree with him on his observations of aunt Peg being a little crazy. And as much as I did think that aunt Peg was crazy and slightly selfish, I also desperately want to be her someday! I can't wait until my little sister starts popping out some babies so that I can be the crazy aunt for my nephews and nieces! 

The main character, Ginny, was nice and agreeable, and I guess I liked her. I cared about what happened for her and I wanted to make sure she got home safely. But for some reason or another, I didn't instantly attach to her. Now that it is over, I do care enough to want to read the sequel, but I think that is mostly because my friend Kate told me that she likes it better then the first one. So I am willing to give it a shot. 

I am going to give 13 Little Blue Envelopes an abduction rating of...

However, I also want to say that this is only my second Maureen Johnson book to read, but so far I love that she writes about girls who are independent, strong, and self-sufficient. It is nice that she promotes those qualities in young girls.


fakesteph said...

You should read Suite Scarlet... LOOOOVE that one! And this was probably my least favorite of her book... the premise is troubling, but I find myself drawn to it anyway. There is nothing I want more than to pack a backpack and take off for Europe and see what happens. I haven't read the sequel yet, but it's been sitting next to my bed for months.

Annette Mills said...

I had exactly the same feeling as I was reading this book -- this trip is absurd and no way would this happen -- but it's worth just letting that go, get past it, and uncover the real story. Great review!

Kimberly @ Midnight Book Girl said...

The premise of the book does sound very out there (no way would my parents allow this) but I'm pretty good at not letting that stuff get to me when reading a book. I'm looking forward to reading more of Maureen Johnson's books because I loved The Name of the Star!

Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

Seriously, you need to read the sequel now! Like right now. I'll wait.

Done? Cool. Now let's go to Europe!

Andrea @ The Overstuffed Bookcase said...

Um, yeah. No way in hell I'd let my daughter go around Europe without her phone. I'd have to know where she was staying and everything for it to be even remotely okay. I mean, my parents travel all the time and my mom sends me their itineraries still! So I can totally see why that part of the book would bother you.

I haven't read any Maureen Johnson yet and that makes me sad. Because I love her! But I have The Name of the Star! Hmm, maybe I should add that to my Readathon pile. But it's kind of a big book so maybe not...

Anyway, I'd still like to read this one, although even now, just reading your post, I have a few lines of Hank Green's Harry Potter song in my head. "And Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes was fantastic but my sneakoscope would be flashing and spinning if I said that it was the best book I've read. And you gotta know that this is no joke when I also read lots of books that my own brother wrote."
Such a good song, but I think I might have it in my head the whole time I read the book! (Here's the link to that video in case you want to listen to it again! Harry Potter Song)

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