Monday, February 4, 2013

Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes (Johnson)

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AUTHOR: Maureen Johnson
SERIES: Little Blue Envelope, book 1
PUBLISHER: HarperTeen
PUBLICATION DATE: August 23,2005
ISBN: 9780061973802
PAGES: 336
SOURCE: public library
GENRE: romance/chick lit
GIVE IT TO: MS, lower-HS girls who like coming-of-age road trip reads
SUMMARY: Sixteen-year old Ginny is shy, self-conscious, and doesn't take many chances, but a great gift from an eccentric aunt allows Ginny to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Shortly after her aunt dies, Ginny receives a plane ticket to Europe, some money, and 13 little blue envelopes. Inside each numbered envelope is a task Ginny must complete. She must complete the tasks in numerical order, and she cannot open the next envelope until she has completed the current task.

ROMANTIC HEAT: Sweater weather. There is some romance, but it isn't all that sizzling. Very little chemistry between the characters, and they only kiss--very mildly--a couple of times.

REVIEW: The first half was engrossing; the second half, a little less so. I liked the premise of the story, even if I found it difficult to believe Ginny's parents allowed her to trek halfway across the world--all alone--with some vague instructions from an aunt who is known to be unpredictable and irresponsible. Nor should they have let her go--she is propositioned, robbed, and without a safe place to sleep more than once. I found Ginny to be a realistically flawed character that many shy high school girls will relate to. The bottom line, living life to its fullest, is a great lesson for all of us, no matter how old we are.

Though I read it quickly and was interested enough, I ultimately felt kind of let down. This is supposed to be a coming-of-age story, but Ginny's personality changes very little. While she's a realistic character, her whining and "goody two-shoes"-ness got on my nerves. She holds herself back so much, and I don't think her little road trip to Europe really changed that.

Despite my issues with credibility and a frightened rabbit of a protagonist, a great road trip romance would have overshadowed all that for me. Sadly, I felt zero chemistry between Ginny and love-interest Keith, whose over-caffeinated vaudeville-ish personality just made me tired. What was so special about his weird little show that inspired Ginny? Was it just that Keith looked cute in his kilt? When she told her friend she "loves" him, did she really mean that, or was she just exaggerating? Please, let's hope for the exaggeration since she barely knows him.

I love road trip books, but I've gotten annoyed with them lately. Why is it that everyone the teens meet along the way are interesting, quirky, funny, wise, accepting, and just so darn cool? Is that just the way vagabond teens are? I saw this in both Amy & Roger's Epic Detour and In Honor.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A bit unbelievable with some annoying protagonists, but the story moved along well. I liked it enough to read it all in one day.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I thought I had it, but I do not. I added it to the next order; it will be very easy to talk up with my girls.

READALIKES: In Honor (Kirby); Amy & Roger's Epic Detour (Matson); Dash and Lily's Book of Dares (Levithan and Cohn)

RATING BREAKDOWN:
  • Overall: 3/5
  • Creativity: 3/5
  • Characters: 2/5
  • Engrossing: 4/5
  • Writing: 4/5
  • Appeal to teens: 4/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5

CONTENT:
  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: mild; some kissing, a boy tries to unbutton a girl's shorts (she stops him)
  • Violence: none
  • Drugs/Alcohol: mild-medium; other teen characters drink alcohol, but Ginny does not like the taste

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2 comments:

  1. I must have read this at the right moment, because I adored it. I even bought a copy for myself immediately, which I never do. My daughter, who was in 6th grade at the time, took it with her on her first solo flight and started up a conversation with a slightly older girl over it. Sorry it wasn't quite what you wanted; the sequel didn't disappoint me, at least!

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