Friday, July 12, 2013

13 Little Blue Envelopes, Maureen Johnson

13 Little Blue Envelopes (Little Blue Envelope, #1)As a rule, Ginny Blackstone tried to go unnoticed - something that was more or less impossible with thirty pounds (she'd weighed it) of purple-and-green backpack hanging from her back.

"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."

This is the first book by Maureen Johnson that I've read besides her story in Let it Snow. I wanted to read it because she's a good friend of John Green, and I love John Green's books. This was the book of her's that I picked up. I did really like it, although parts of it unsettled me. For example, Ginny's complete lack of experience with the London subway system. That was a bit jarring. I mean, she does live in New York; surely she should know how to get on and off a subway.

Something that other reviewers have commented on is that Ginny's parents let her go to Europe by herself (she's never traveled by herself before), on the cryptic directions of a notoriously irresponsible aunt who they thought was dead. It's very smart of them. Not. Also, Ginny isn't even allowed to bring a cell phone or any other electronic device. She's not allowed to communicate with her parents in any way. It's true that her parents are somewhat reluctant to let her go, but one would think (and hope) that they'd put up a bit more of a fuss. I understand that it's all about "the spirit of adventure" and all that, but a little caution never hurt. Plus, Ginny has had no experience whatsoever, and they just send her off to Europe. It didn't seem realistic at all. What also didn't seem realistic was that Ginny was so confused. One would think that she would have a bit more sense than displayed in the beginning of 13 Little Blue Envelopes

I did really like the writing; although somewhat disjointed, it was funny and compelling, and it kind of matched Johnson's odd, dead-serious in a funny way sort of style that I've seen on Vlogbrothers before. She acts as if what she's saying is really important and solemn, when in reality it's kind of absurd. There wasn't a whole lot of that in 13 Little Blue Envelopes, but I could definitely see that the author was Maureen Johnson. 

I really did not like the artist that Ginny chose to sponsor, who, predictably, becomes the love interest. His show seemed terrible, and not in a funny way. Just downright terrible. However, I did like the romance that developed between them; it was well-written and sweet. 

One thing I didn't understand was why Ginny wasn't more curious about whether her aunt was actually dead, or why her aunt had decided to bring her to London. I guess she's more of the mellow, it-will-work-out-eventually type. Still, I know I would have been asking a lot more questions than Ginny was in that situation. It was kind of annoying how placid she was. Still, that was a fairly minor criticism. 

I loved the descriptions of the various European cities that Ginny visited; although the construct felt somewhat false, Maureen Johnson followed through on it very well. 13 Little Blue Envelopes was overall absorbing and compelling. 

317 pages. 

Rating: ****

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