13 Little Blue Envelopes (by Maureen Johnson)

20 12 2010

Cute flimsy holiday reading. That’s the most positive I can be about Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes. Johnson’s style is clear, concise… predictable. The story about a 17-year-old American girl alone on a trip through Europe in search of her dead Aunt Peg’s legacy (and in doing so, in search of herself, of course) is straightforward, though it’s hardly very realistic. This is the 2nd Maureen Johnson book I have read, and again I have the feeling that Johnson completely underestimates her readership. Teens really can handle a bit more than just light fluff.

This is supposedly an adventure novel about a girl traveling around Europe, in search of the legacy of her artsy eccentric Aunt Peg, someone who always brought life and spunk into her otherwise boring structured life. Now, for all the adventures that happen to Ginny while she’s in Europe carrying out the tasks her Aunt has set her in the 13 blue envelopes, there’s very little character development in Ginny. Things happen to her, but we have hardly any insight into her frame of mind.  We get a few letters that Ginny writes to her friend Miriam, but other than that, Maureen Johnson never lets us see what’s going on in Ginny’s head. OK, she supposedly falls in love with Keith while she’s in London, but we have to wonder why that would ever be possible. Ginny is so utterly bland and dull, it’s hard to understand why this creative theatre maker would even look at her twice.

This book is definitely an easy read. A bit too easy to my liking. It’s OK if you don’t have anything else lying on your bedside table, but the book never fulfilled its potential. A 17-year-old girl on a major journey through Europe, alone, encountering all these new people, seeing all these interesting places… this plotline should burst with energy and we should see the character grow, not stand still! There was just never enough insight into the main character; there were never enough details to keep you going; there was not enough zing to Maureen Johnson’s writing style to make me reach out for another one of her books.

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