13 Little Blue Envelopes / Maureen Johnson

I can’t seem to find books I really enjoy lately. 13 Little Blue Envelopes has an engaging main character, but one big flaw that made it tough for me to really get into it.

Cover of 13 Little Blue Envelopes

Virginia Ginny Blackstone lives in new Jersey. She used to visit her Aunt Peg in New York City a lot. Until Aunt Peg disappeared one day, never to be seen again. A few years later, Ginny finds out that Peg has died in London, and that her aunt has designed a quest for Ginny. She gets a posthumously delivered letter with instructions to pick up a package for her at a restaurant the two used to visit. She’s being sent to Europe with 13 envelopes. After she completes the task in an envelope, Ginny may open the next envelope. She’s allowed only a backpack with clothes for her quest: no books, no journals, no money, no computer, no cell phone, no camera.

Ginny is a great character. We get to know her aunt pretty well too, though only through her letters and the words of other people. See, the journey takes Ginny along many of the places Aunt Peg traveled after she disappeared. Ginny is smart and capable, though she sometimes is in over her head as any normal teen would be. She gets to become even more resilient and capable as her journey progresses.

What threw me off was the premise. Aunt Peg doesn’t explain in her letter why Ginny has to follow the rules, what the goal of the quest is, or anything really. Ginny simply follows the instructions because this is the sort of thing that Aunt Peg would do. So what kept running through my head the entire time was why are you on this quest? why are you sticking to the rules?

Because things go wrong with the quest. You can’t design a scavenger hunt that long, over such a wide area (Europe), that depends on so many things falling into place, and have it go right without supervision. So of course stuff goes wrong for Ginny, sometimes scarily wrong. And yet Ginny never violates the rules. She questions the goals of other characters she meets, and she resents her aunt’s instructions at times, but never her aunt’s wisdom enough to go off track. Never once did she have a moment of fuck you! I’m gonna do what I want! Which is odd for a teenager.

I just wish that was explained, cause I couldn’t put it to rest on my own. Otherwise, a quite lovely book.

(P.S. Couldn’t HarperCollins have at least made the envelope on the cover blue? They did in the hardcover version of the cover.)

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