Title: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Author: Maureen Johnson
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.
I feel like I have a weird relationship with Maureen Johnson’s books. My first book from her was Devilish, which I read when I was younger. I enjoyed it, but I haven’t reread it since and I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a reader as well as a reviewer, so I might not enjoy it as much if I read it for the first time or even just reread it now. I’ve read her Scarlett books and The Name of the Star, all more recently and right before or during the time I’ve been reviewing, so I was definitely more critical of them thanks to overall experience. So, looking at her first (or one of the first, can’t remember for sure) book, I feel like I have two different reactions.
First and foremost, my reaction as a reviewer and late-teens reader. I thought this book was alright but would have been fine if I had skipped it. I wasn’t even planning on reading it until I saw it for a mere dollar at a used bookstore and figured I could always return it if I didn’t like it. I like Europe and travel and quirky family members, but I knew that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Johnson. Regardless, I gave it a shot. I don’t think this book suffered as much from the cool-secondary-characters-but-lifeless-protagonist program that I feel her later books have, but it did still feel somewhat present. Ginny seemed to yet another “shy” character who really isn’t all that shy once the story starts, although she repeatedly points out how she wouldn’t normally do certain things because, if you’ll recall, she’s such a shy person. Shy characters who are really just regular people who aren’t always in the spotlight but still claim to be shy irritate me.
At the beginning, I was mostly forcing myself to work slowly through the book. Somewhere around the second half of the book, something clicked. Not with the book, necessarily, but I did enjoy the second half more and read it much, much faster. Maybe I just had a larger chunk of time to devote to the book at that point, maybe I was just getting into, I’m not really sure. This is where my second reaction comes in. I didn’t really want to enjoy the book that much because, a reviewer, I had plenty of minor issues with it. As a reader that had once read just for the joy of reading without paying attention to problems and flaws, however, I was kind of enjoying myself. Definitely fluffy, despite the drama surrounding Ginny’s aunt – I had trouble really caring about Ginny’s screwed-up relationship with her, though, and by screwed up, I meant that Ginny didn’t seem to get how screwed up her aunt was and she just overlooked her flaws.
So, will I reread this or even try the recently-and-randomly released sequel? Doubtful. Does this change the way I feel about Johnson as an author? Not really. But did I ultimately kind of enjoy myself by the time the book wrapped up? Yeah, I kind of did. And sometimes that’s really all we need from books.