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Little Blue Envelopes #1

13 Little Blue Envelopes

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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.

Ages 12+"

322 pages, Paperback

First published August 23, 2005

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Maureen Johnson

61 books14.1k followers

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5 stars
19,538 (23%)
4 stars
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3 stars
24,259 (29%)
2 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,227 reviews
Profile Image for Lucy.
102 reviews1,767 followers
February 25, 2011
13 Little Blue Envelopes suffers from DPS. Disappearing Parent Syndrome is a tragic epidemic in YA novels. In this case the DPS was particularly severe. Seventeen year old Ginny Blackstone goes on a trip to Europe sponsored by her deceased aunt. Aunt Peg was not reliable when she was around. In fact, during the last several years of Ginny's life Peg was in Europe. She died without contacting the family to let them know she was suffering from a prolonged illness. The family was just expected to pick up the pieces after she passed with very little explanation -- but wait! Aunt Peg has left Ginny mysterious envelopes that she's not allowed to open all at once and strange instructions to travel around Europe.

Mr. and Mrs. Disappearstone allow their seventeen year old daughter -- their only child -- to go traipsing around Europe. The rules state she's not allowed a cell phone or laptop or camera. They're not even allowed to give her extra money so they know there's a back up plan in case Mrs. Disapperancestone's unreliable sister who died from a brain tumor several months before hasn't provided Ginny with everything she might need for this spur of the moment trip. Oh yeah, and she's not allowed to call them even on a pay phone. No communication back home. Honestly, I would have been slightly concerned in Ginny's case. What's the goal here? Sell me on the black market?

You know what I would have done if I was Mummy-DisappearanceStone? I would have told my daughter that Aunt Peg was mentally unstable when she was healthy and thrown the envelopes into a fire place before I let her go off on some half-baked adventure across Europe. Of course, Ginny thought mentions that her parents weren't thrilled, but somehow this underaged minor is still on a plane to England in the first few chapters. Awesome, just awesome.

Look, some of my annoyance with this book is based on just how often the parents disappear in YA fiction. I know it's the easiest route to take. How can Ginny have a sexy adventure in England and then the rest of Europe if her mom is following her around? Well, if you can't man up and work with the circumstances the age of your character gives you then you have no business writing Young Adult fiction. This book should have been written about a girl who has completed one or two years of college, who has some experience living out there on her own within reasonable distance to her family (even if that reasonable distance is merely being able to pick up a phone and ask for financial help). No sane parent would ever let their child go on the trip Ginny did. I was asked to suspend my disbelief a little too far and now it's lost. Mourn for it.

While I think this book was better suited for 20-something chick-lit I also don't think Maureen Johnson has the stomach to ever do the sex scene that would have more likely than not happened if she hadn't been writing about a dewy-eyed Virgin. Yes, Virgin with a capital V. From what I gather reading other reviews on Maureen Johnson's books her characters pretty much all have the capital Virgin card in their deck. I'm tired of the constant YA virgin business. Part of what made me love The Duff was the fact that we didn't have another maidenhead to protect throughout the whole book! The novel *gasp* started with a non-virginal teenager.

Anyway, Ginny's adventures are very uncoordinated. I get that the aunt made Ginny's trip mimic her own eccentric path across Europe, but I should have felt there was some master intention from the author's point of view rather than constantly imagining Maureen Johnson throwing a dart at a map of Europe and going 'okay, time to buy a travel book for that country!'

The writing was, unfortunately, not top notch. There was a scene where Ginny really had to pee, but couldn't tell the difference between the men and women's bathroom symbols. She gets whisked off before she can pee and it felt like a Chekhov's gun. It left me sitting there wondering what just happened. Why did you waste my time with that scene if it meant nothing?

Ginny also gets put in a near date-rape situation from following her aunt's advice to hit on a random Italian boy. This immediately follows her nearly getting mugged. Eventually she does get robbed of all her worldly possessions, what's left of her very dwindling money, and the last envelope that could have explained all the shit that happened to her. Losing the last envelope was a cop out. It wasn't a clever device that added mystery to the novel. Some of what might have been in the note gets discovered later, but you never know for sure what it said. There is a sequel to the novel planned, but I think the intention was to leave it dangling.

Also, the subplot about her aunt's paintings and how the value sky-rocketed after her death? Um no. Peg had not merited a lot of fame in life. Her death was abrupt and she died young, yes, but death does not equate millions of dollars to your estate. It was an over simplification of how the art world works and in the end it just wasn't accurate. A huge portion of the happily ever ending was contingent on these unbelievable stipulations.

Oh and the romance.... Yeah. I felt more of a connection between two stick figures I doodled at work. The romance felt like requisite met because it was a YA coming of age novel rather than anything that actually fit with the book. Keith is around for one country and pops up in another so that their romance can develop. Forced, contrived etc etc.

So why two stars and not one? The writing wasn't awful. The idea was just underdeveloped and rushed. I think with more time from Johnson and an editor who'd pushed her to really polish it the book could have easily been three stars, maybe four. I do think she has some talent and I want to try her again, but this was definitely a disappointing start.
Profile Image for Shannon.
546 reviews98 followers
May 31, 2014
Unimpressive. The way Johnson writes is annoying; more than halfway into the book, I really didn't know ANYTHING about the main character, other than that she was on a (ridiculous) journey. It was all action and no thought. It was not insightful. The main character was not likeable. She wasn't unlikeable either. She was just like...doing things. She didn't have very many thoughts. And never very insightful ones (ie "I like this boy! I am sad. I am happy. I am angry"). COME ON. There was no attempt made to make her a human, a believable character. Also the end was frustrating but kind of oddly moving (a little) at the same time. But overall, I was not in any way impressed.
Profile Image for emma.
1,784 reviews42.8k followers
February 15, 2021
This is an unrealistic, borderline fantastical narrative with an annoying main character, a deeply unlikable dead-aunt character at the center, and a totally flat romance.

But it was very fun and I...kinda liked it.

I will forever have a soft spot for slightly out of date travel-based YA contemporaries.

It's just who I am.

That's the review.

Bottom line: Travel books forever!


i may not be able to travel right now, but i CAN read about it in books, which is like...kinda the same thing
Profile Image for Lisa.
Author 71 books93 followers
September 2, 2008
I am not going to review this book except to say the thing that made me crazy. There were several instances in this book where something was mentioned and you think it is important and then it was dropped.

For instance, when the MC goes in the Louvre, it is mentioned that she checks her backpack in at the front--kind of like a coat check. Okay. No problem.

But then, as she is trying to get out of the Louvre she kind of starts going down random hall after hall in search of an exit and finally finds one and leaves.

Later, we see that she is on the street and has her back pack.
Excuse me? How/when did she retrieve it? This drove me to distraction. Why was it even mentioned that she checked it in??? If you mention a small detail like this, it should be important later. Do not leave me hanging. It would've been differnt if we never saw her leave the Louvre because the reader could then assume she retrieved it.

This was not the only scene that did this kind of thing. There was another in Denmark when she gets off a train and it is mentioned that she has to pee very badly. She does not know which restroom is mens or womens. As she is trying to decide, her ride comes, hustles her along to a boat, and we never find out of the poor girl ever got to pee!!

I worried about her through the next few scenes!

Okay--other than that, the book was a good read.

Carry on with your lives.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
34 reviews
December 12, 2007
I read this book as an assignment from a mother-daughter book club that I am in with some friends from B.F. Day.
It wasn't very good, and while the plot is a nice idea, the author didn't really write it very well.
I mean, who would let thier daughter go overseas with no contact to the US and only carrying what she could fit in her backpack. And only haveing 1000 US dollars to spend. In addition to several other appalling facts, some of which are:
letting your daughter do the following:
1 stay with a adult male to whom she is not related to, and you have no clue who he is other than she is your unreliable completely out of controll sister's friend
2 travel around unsupervised all over Europe following a pack of envelopes
3 go on a wild goose chase, the letters written by your sister who as I mentioned before is unreliable, and completely out of controll
Oh, and by the way, did I mention that your daughter isn't even out of high school yet?
Profile Image for • fio •.
69 reviews33 followers
November 26, 2020
No estuvo mal, no la pasé mal leyéndolo y por eso tuve problemas para ponerle una nota numérica. Tiene mil millones de fallos y la calidad de escritura es malísima; no puedo decir que lo disfruté a pleno, pero al menos no lo odié ¿no? Y los libros que tengo calificados con 2.5 son libros que odié. Eso me hizo plantearme o ponerle 3 estrellas, cosa que quedó descartada porque libros de mucha mejor calidad tenían ese puntaje; o bajarle el puntaje a los libros que odié a 1.5. Así que eso hice.
Tal vez se pregunten por qué leí un libro tan malo sabiendo que iba a ser malo. La respuesta es simple: tengo más de 50 libros en mí estantería sin leer, y hay que ir leyéndolos de a uno. Este lo compré cuando era joven e inexperta, me arrepiento.

No hay mucho que decir sobre la historia. Básica, personajes básicos, ninguna revelación, nada. Mientras lo leía pensaba: este es un libro que JAMÁS podría tener un club de fans, o alguien que diga este es mi libro favorito. Simplemente este no puede ser el libro favorito de nadie. Es demasiado genérico. Lo peor de todo es que el tema principal "viaje a Europa" es muy pobre. No llegamos a ver nada de Europa en las 350 páginas. Falta descripción y recorrer lugares. No me transmitió absolutamente nada.
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews66.4k followers
August 3, 2014
I listened to this book as an audio book during my drive to New Orleans which made me dislike the book even more (I didn't enjoy the reader's voice). I enjoyed the book in the beginning but soon felt like the story was dragging and every country visited after Paris was unnecessary. I also didn't really like any character in this book, they had no depth and weren't interesting or likable. The concept of this book was so intriguing but I was disappointed.
Profile Image for Kayley Hyde.
107 reviews1,836 followers
March 2, 2017
If you've ever been to Europe, thought about going to Europe, wanted to go about Europe or even heard of Europe...you'll love this book. It's a quick, fun summer read. Very clever and warm-hearted. I love the characters, the plot and just everything about it. It always keeps you guessing. One of my favourites. Maureen never lets me down.
Profile Image for Aly (Fantasy4eva).
240 reviews120 followers
January 5, 2012
I liked the premise. It was sort of interesting and cute. Dead Aunt sends niece on this unpredictable and slightly loony journey. (maybe not so cute). One very similar to the one that her aunt took when she felt a little lost and was dealing with a bit of a reality check.

17 year old Ginny doesn't think twice about it. She jets to her first destination, London. From there on it's one big ride. She goes through many experiences, and although it's a decent read, I just was not in love with the book. I mean, I finished it fairly quickly. It never lagged, and I might even say that it was slightly engrossing. But it didn't feel all that memorable.

The love interest? A bit of a jerk, not to mention a major bore. I could not for the life of me figure out what she saw in the guy. I also found her confession - regarding her falling for him, rather random, too.

I actually recall getting into the book, but by the time I had finished it, I was kind of underwhelmed. Also, I didn't really connect with any characters. I felt lack of depth might have had something to to with it.

I liked it, I just didn't love it.

Oh, and the holiday is going rather well so far. A little homesick, but nothing I can't handle ;)
Profile Image for Prabhjot Kaur (Away).
1,030 reviews134 followers
April 19, 2021
I was introduced with this book on my local library page. When I looked at the title, I wanted to read it and when it said that lovers of The sisterhood of travelling pants would enjoy I knew that I wanna read it asap.

Meet Ginny, she's so naive that when she receives letters or blue envelope from her long absent now deceased aunt she follows her instructions without much or any thought. She's never traveled on her own but decides to buy a plane ticket to travel to another country with the money and instructions that her aunt left for her. Doesn't sound that terrible but it is because she'll have to wait for further instructions, there's no plan or backup plan. I understand some people are spontaneous, sometimes I can be too but this was all a bit far fetched. I didn't really like her character and she was pretty much the only one in the book. Yeah she meets people when she travels but none that make it permanent.

I didn't really like the writing much as it didn't flow. Somethings were there just to be there. I often felt like that certain things were there but the author couldn't make up her mind as to what to do with them and she'll just leave them be. Just. Like. That.

I really wanted to love this as it was a travel story but I couldn't. Also aunt Peg, I know we shouldn't speak ill of the dead but she was practically missing from most of Ginny's life so why do all this and why expect her niece to do all that. Obviously Ginny does exactly that, hence the book. I just couldn't get my head around it.

2 stars
Profile Image for Flannery.
338 reviews
November 22, 2010
This book would be more aptly marketed as a book about what NOT to do on a trip abroad rather than a YA quasi-adventure/quasi-romance. The most common emotion it drew out of me was annoyance. What parent lets their 17-year-old child go to Europe alone WITH NO SUPPLIES? No parents, that's who. Ginny wasn't properly equipped to travel the way she did. She talks to strangers, goes back to apartments with random people, just walks around some places at night, and leaves her crap unattended like it is her job. I'm surprised she didn't end up in a child sex trafficking ring. No, seriously, I am.

Her "romance" with Keith (who is named Keith these days? I think all Keiths should just be born into middle-age) is weak and pretty unbelievable. We find out basically nothing about the main character, she shows no growth, and the ending is lame. The best part about the entire book is the backstory of Richard and Peg. Richard was likable and seemed realistic.

I just don't get it, though: The parents of this child allowed her to go "all over the world" with no cell phone, camera, traveler's checks, no money (until she gets some in London, but they would never know that because she can't make any phone calls home), and NO CONTACTS. And we are supposed to believe this? I can't get my eyebrows to come back down even while I write this review.

The reason it gets 2 stars instead of 1 is because I love European adventures and it was mildly entertaining. But I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

Profile Image for Olivia-Savannah .
643 reviews453 followers
July 17, 2017
13 Little Blue Envelopes was a book which had been in my TBR pile for quite some time. I was glad to finally be able to read it after I discovered Anissa @ TheBookworm Central wanted to reread it. We read it together and it was so nice to discuss this read with someone!

What I loved the most about the story would have to be the traveling side of things. Ginny’s trip takes her all across Europe to places like London, Denmark, Amsterdam and so many more places. As she is an American, she really gets culture shock and the author highlights elements of the cultures that I didn’t know, or hadn’t realised were so unique. As I am from Europe, I’d been to quite a few of these places, or lived in them, so it was nice to see them represented realistically and so beautifully depicted. It’s almost like an international road trip – who can’t appreciate that?

I liked reading these envelopes for ourselves, and discovering a little bit more about her Aunt in each one. It’s important to remember that everything happening is part of Ginny’s grieving process as well. I’m not sure whether I like her aunt or not still – she was wonderfully wacky, but scared to really be herself and settle down. And she hurt people because of that. But you have to admire her really independent and artistic nature at the same time.

I also liked Ginny’s character. She was extremely quiet and shy – even more so than me. I can be pretty shy sometimes but Ginny took it to a new level. I liked her weirdness and quirkiness. Although sometimes, I have to admit that I found that Ginny was the kind of person who let things happen to her, rather than took advantage of them herself. She was kind of innocent and oblivious to some things around her which bothered me at times. But not too much.

I think this novel showed the benefits and the cons to traveling solo as well. But then again, she didn’t have much guidance throughout the whole thing.

What I didn’t like about the novel had to be the ending. I was really getting invested, when all of a sudden the ending came. It did close some ends, but then it didn’t close some either. I didn’t agree with the choice that Ginny made in the end. It’s a personal thing, but I was also pretty disappointed.

You’re probably thinking it’s the only negative thing I mentioned in the review, so why does it only get three stars? Because although I did enjoy the novel, it wasn’t mind-blowingly amazing. The pace was slow and steady the whole way through, and it didn’t have enough suspense or build up for me to be fully immersed in the novel.

This review and others can be found on Olivia's Catastrophe: http://olivia-savannah.blogspot.com.e...
Profile Image for Wilma.
106 reviews49 followers
August 16, 2016
Ongecompliceerde YA roman...ik heb genoten...op het strand in de zon!!
Profile Image for Jennifer Wardrip.
Author 5 books479 followers
November 13, 2012
Reviewed by Dena Landon for TeensReadToo.com

When Virginia Blackstone (Ginny) receives the first blue envelope from her Aunt Peg in the mail, it sends her on an exciting, funny, and sometimes poignant adventure that readers will be delighted to join. The envelope contains $1,000 in cash, and the instructions to pick up a package of envelopes that start Ginny on a trip around Europe, tracing the steps of her eccentric Aunt. The instructions are specific; no cell phones, no maps, and Ginny can only open one envelope at a time, after she's completed each task in the previous letter.

Through the letters, Ginny learns more about what drove her Aunt to flee to Europe in pursuit of her art, and about her Aunt's last year of life, since Aunt Peg has passed away from a brain tumor by the time the first envelope arrives--and Ginny never got to say good-bye. Through her adventures, Ginny learns a lot about herself. Her own strength and ingenuity, her ability to forgive, and that she, too, can be an interesting person.

Some of the tasks seem impossible; find the one café in all of Paris where her Aunt spent a month sleeping behind the bar and decorating the café to pay her rent. Others are easier, at least on the surface; find a starving artist and be his mysterious benefactor. Readers will both laugh at some of Ginny's mishaps and cringe at some of her mistakes as the envelopes lead her around Europe.

Peopled with a strong cast of supporting characters--the cute playwright she meets in London, the annoying family of Americans with a "schedule" in Amsterdam, the crazy artist friends of her Aunt--the novel unfolds at a fast pace, while never losing its poignancy as Ginny retraces the steps of the Aunt she loved. Ms. Johnson has written an excellent and entertaining novel that I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Yoda.
569 reviews110 followers
April 29, 2016
It's a such amazing story! Well written, interesting and unexpected. Maureen Johnsons discriptions were so vivid I could've swore I was traveling through Europe with her. It's an easy read, and a really feel good kind of novel. All about finding yourself in the midts of unkown cities and countries.
Thank you Maureen Johnson for taking me on this incredible journey.
589 reviews1,030 followers
June 16, 2013
See more reviews at YA Midnight Reads
Mini mini review
13 Little Blue Envelopes is a quick, light read that will intrigue young readers from the first page. This 'road trip novel' is filled with adventure and a cute romance. Maureen Johnson manages to pull off an entertaining story in 300 pages that may not fulfil older readers' expectations.

Looking at the Goodreads shelves for 13 Little Blue Envelopes, I'm quite positive that this should actually be under 'Middle Grade'. Now I love the MG genre, in fact, my top two authors are MG writers, so my level of expectation for a MG novel is set at the stars. 13LBE most definitely did my reach my standards. There were so many holes in the plot and the main character was so oblivious and annoying. While I thought the plot line was excellent, the way it was executed was horridly poor.

All in all, I am not a big fan of Maureen's novel, it was my first one by her, and probably the last. Everything seemed to childish and just not for me. MG people can try this but MG readers may dispute this as it had nothing too remarkable or anything that screamed depth.
Profile Image for Kinga.
475 reviews2,123 followers
September 25, 2021
Sometimes I get silly books to listen on audio because I find audiobooks really hard. I zone out all the time, so I just use them to practice staying focused. But this was, perhaps, TOO silly.
This book has that god-awful Emily in Paris vibe to it, i.e. clueless American in Europe, see all the silly stereotypes in one neat package!

The main character Ginny is sent on some hare-brained adventure around Europe by her, now dead, quirky aunt, who left her some ‘envelopes’ to be opened posthumously with nonsensical instructions to follow.

So our heroine is just pointlessly gallivanting around Europe. There is no real plot or direction here. Was Ginny supposed to come to terms with aunt’s death on this bizarre journey? Who knows? We learn very little about Ginny. We just observe her go from one country to another, going through the motions, but what is the point of all this we never truly learn. Even the supposed love story is so bland and pointless that it is actually almost authentic (let’s be honest, most of the ‘love stories’ we lived through as 17 year olds were just absolute foolishness).

(I mean, maybe some people formed some deep, meaningful, and mature romantic relationships at that age, but certainly not me).

At least it is acknowledged that this kind of ‘quirkiness’ that the aunt represents is not superior to a more ‘mundane’ lifestyle, but that in fact can be toxic and harmful.

What is not acknowledged is that we have an underage girl going off to Europe on her own; she is forbidden to have a phone with her or contact anyone back home, because her psychopathic aunt thought it would be cool to do it this way. And her parents don’t involve the Interpol?

PS. Also, the person who read the audiobook did the worst accents I've ever heard in my life (and I heard myself do accents). They were just all over the place. I think there were some Australians at some point who sounded like some bastard child of cockney and Scottish. Italians sounded Indian, and none of the British people sounded anywhere near what they were supposed to sound. It was painful.
Profile Image for Tessa Herondale~Carstairs.
206 reviews221 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
April 14, 2020
I don't really get it... She's blindly trusting a guy whom she's never met before, going to a pub with him, learning that he has behavioral problems and has set fire to things before... And still hanging out with him. If I were her, I'd be slowly backing away and running home, IF I even got in the situation of hearing about his past...Too unrealistic and annoying
Profile Image for Patrícia.
961 reviews97 followers
July 16, 2017
RATING: 1.5 stars (barely).

Let's see if I can piece together some sort of review for this book. But I must warn you now: it's not going to be objective and I suspect it is more of a rant then a review.

Imagine that you're a 17-year-old, completely average and normal American girl who just happens to have a fun but somewhat crazy [favourite] aunt. Said aunt decides suddenly to leave her New York flat and the next thing you (the teenager) and your family know she is dead.

Then an envelope comes for you (annoying little and blue) and it's from your aunt and she wants you to grab the 1000 dollars in the envelope and buy a ticket to London. And you just... go. Why? I don't know. A letter comes for you, out-of-the-blue asking you, a teenager, to go from America to Europe with only a backpack and a set of written instructions.

I'm sure everyone must have realized what the problem with this entire story line is. Yep. I doubt there are many parents out there who would let their teenage daughter just catch a plane to Europe with no money, barely any clothes and no cell phone. What? I mean, what? I just didn't buy it. And the fact thar there was no conversation between the main character (Ginny) and her parents at all didn't make it any better, obviously.

Still this is fiction. This is teen fiction. I was willing to suspend my disbelief at this completely wacky plot line. Maybe something interesting would happen.

But it didn't. The entire book is just about Ginny (Virginia) who is possibly one of the most dull protagonists ever (just like Finley, remember her?) running around all over Europe with a backpack, very little cash and no maps. I could suspend my disbelief no longer; 13 Little Blue Envelopes just didn't work. It was implausible, random and in spite of all the descriptions of European cities, boring.

Any self-respecting person, teenager or not would be annoyed that their aunt was apparently making them travel all over for no discernible or logical reason, but not Ginny. Since she is dull, as I mentioned above and just devoid of any personality whatsoever she meekly followed all the crazy instructions in the various envelopes and I was honestly surprised she didn't get lost and/or wasn't repeatedly robbed or beaten up for the contents of her backpack.
Johnson's descriptions of Europe are flawed, as if it is some sort of magical land where nothing wrong ever happens. Oh, sure, Ginny has some problems but somehow they get solved in the most fantastic and unrealistic ways: like, when she didn't have a place to stay, an American family just happened to find her and invite her to stay with them.

Of course, no teen novel is complete without a romantic interest. Ginny falls for Keith, an English wannabe-actor (at first sight, of course). They keep running into each other (either because they're going the same way or because he decides to show up where she is, at random, as if traveling through Europe costs no money at all) but don't ever know each other very well. But they are still in luurve.

In the end there was no point to the whole exercise. Ginny traveled, met a few people and went back home. She didn't change much (or if she did, we're never told).

Overall: this book was... not very good. It was pointless, dull and random. The main character was not interesting at all, her quest was annoying vapid and unrealistic and in the end nothing changed. The whole setting was too implausible for words. When I compare this book to the recent YA paranormal fiction I read and find the fantasy books more believable than this one then something is definitely wrong. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone, teenagers or adults. There is just too much in this book that doesn't work.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Angel Gelique.
Author 18 books369 followers
July 12, 2015
Passport Europe photo: Passport j0365180.gif

Ginger "Ginny" Blackstone, a seventeen-year-old college-bound girl, receives a letter from her deceased aunt instructing her to pick up a package from her former apartment. The package contains twelve additional envelopes, numbered two through thirteen. As per her aunt's insistence, Ginny must open an envelope only after completing the task from the previous envelope. The first envelope sends her to London with no money, cell phone, computer or guidebook. Ginny begins her adventure.

I honestly wanted to enjoy this book much more than I did. But I hated the fact that a young girl imprudently travels to unfamiliar regions and places herself in some precarious situations. Though I understand the aunt's desire for Ginny to follow in her footsteps by traveling throughout Europe on a journey of self-discovery, I think it was improper for the aunt to posthumously impose her will in attempt to pave Ginny's destiny.

But aside from that personal gripe, I didn't really care for any of the characters, especially Keith. I can't understand why Ginny cared so much for him in such a short period. The only character I liked is Richard, who was sweet, sensible and helpful.

Nor did I find the story particularly enthralling, either, until the ending. I will read the second book to see if it can drastically change my mind about this story....
Profile Image for Ying.
192 reviews53 followers
January 11, 2014
I felt that this was only an okay book from Maureen Johnson and that it paled in comparison to my favorite from her, Girl at Sea. There was a good plotline that promised adventure and romance in a foreign country that I was dissappointed to find did not exist. While it was an excellent idea, I felt the story did not develop well enough and it didn't go too in-depth. This book could have been better written but otherwise, still a good read.
Profile Image for Shay.
300 reviews32 followers
August 2, 2017
Aunt Peg is dead and the thing she left Ginny? A little blue envelope with $1000 and the instructions to buy a plane ticket. So begins the adventure! This is a lovely tale of a girl following the trail of her aunt's life and discovering herself along the way.
Profile Image for Louise Wilson.
2,627 reviews1,606 followers
December 11, 2022
Little Blue Envelopes #1

Everything will change about Ginny this summer, and it's all because of thirteen little blue envelopes. Ginny is seventeen, she is left thirteen blue envelopes by her free-spirited young aunt Peg. Little does she know just how much they will change her life.

All the envelopes contain a message telling Ginny what she has to do. They have been left to her from her dead Aunt Peg. I was always intrigued to find out what was going to be in the next envelope, so I found myself quickly turning the pages. The book is filled with surprises. Ginny goes on a journey that's both sad and exciting as she traces the footsteps of her aunt. Keith was my favourite character.

Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,853 reviews1,493 followers
September 15, 2015
I loved this book and I'm afraid this review won't do it justice. Virginia (Ginny) is a good kid. She doesn't get into trouble, she gets good grades, and she follows the rules. Yes, she knows that she is shy, even with her aunt Peg (who she loves wholeheartedly), but she's okay with that. When her aunt Peg dies and leaves her a stack of envelopes with travel instructions, Ginny reluctantly begins following the path they describe.

I thought I'd have a harder time with Ginny than I actually did. She's pretty passive and that always bugs me. And I thought I'd have a harder time with Aunt Peg than I actually did. She's pretty aggressive and that always bugs me. Fortunately, Maureen Johnson doesn't take any of the easy paths or settle for obvious "lessons" with her characters so what we end up with is a rich exploration of growth, friendship, relationships, and family with just the right pacing of events to move the story along.

One of the strengths of the book is that Johnson didn't deify Aunt Peg the way that books like this seem tempted to do. She wasn't some genius artistic mastermind engineering the education and betterment of her niece. Her plan has flaws, some obvious, some subtle, and part of Ginny's journey is coming to terms with the flawed human being her Aunt turns out to be.

Another strength of the book is that Ginny doesn't learn all the obvious lessons from her journey, either. Ginny needs to learn to be comfortable with herself, to have confidence, and to be open to meeting new people. Being a smart girl, she knows this and is prepared to follow-through on Aunt Peg's crazy pilgrimage. But the things Ginny experiences aren't as clear-cut as all that. Some of exploring your world ends up reinforcing your preconceived notions rather than abating them and sometimes the lessons Ginny learns aren't even close to what Aunt Peg intended.

And I really liked the two men who end up dominating Ginny's experiences—one introduced directly by Aunt Peg's instructions and the other a happy accident. No, this is not a romantic triangle and for that I am deeply grateful. Richard is my favorite (he's the not-love-interest). He is reliable and honest and grieving the passing of Aunt Peg in his own way. Fortunately, his grief is the unselfish kind that turns his attentions to helping Ginny any way that he can. He was endearing and drew me into the novel, particularly at the end.

I really can't say more without ruining key aspects of the book. If you have a heart and wouldn't mind exploring growth, friendship, relationships, and family, this book is a good place to do so.
Profile Image for Katie.
522 reviews422 followers
December 10, 2015
I really wanted to read this book while I was in China because it has to do with travel. I was traveling, Ginny was traveling - it seemed the thing to do. I read it in two days, as well, which is saying something. But still, there was something lacking for me in this novel.

First, I'll admit that this is definitely a fast-paced read. I was never bored with the story. The constant change of setting kept the book clipping along at a pretty breakneck speed. Ginny visits a crazy amount of countries in this 350-page novel, including England, Scotland, Greece, France, Denmark, and Italy, to name a few.

But with this constant change of scenery, I never truly felt connected with any of the characters, not even Ginny herself. There's little said about our protagonist before we're thrown into this grand adventure that her insane aunt sends her on. Even at the end of the book, I didn't feel like I really knew much about Ginny or her character motivation. And what kind of crazy parents would allow their teenage daughter to gallivant around Europe unchaperoned and with no contact? I had a really hard time swallowing that.

Really, the only character we learn much about is Ginny's aunt, and only through her letters and what Ginny says about her. Honestly, I felt like there was more narration devoted to the aunt than Ginny herself. But this wasn't supposed to be a book about Ginny's aunt; it was supposed to be about Ginny. Right?

Then there's the "romance." I put quotation marks around it because it never really felt like a true romance to me. There was pretty much zero chemistry, and the love interest isn't really that essential to the story. He pops up in England, then again in Paris, and we never really see him again until the very end. It was weird. And Ginny's one-minute stand with an Italian at his house? Even weirder. I wasn't on board with the lackluster romance.

But all that being said, it was an interesting book. I love travel and creative nonfiction travel journal-esque things, so I was interested and kept reading simply because of that aspect. I've never been to Europe, so I enjoyed the descriptions and experiencing everything for the first time, right along with Ginny. I just wish that I had gotten to know the characters better.

The Last Little Blue Envelope was released recently, and I think I'll probably read that one. But it's certainly not at the top of my list. I just want to know what the stupid final letter says!
Profile Image for Amélie Boucher.
668 reviews284 followers
May 24, 2020
I filmed a video in which I read this book and 4 other YA travel novels just like this one if you'd like to check it out! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnzrX5dHnvA

What a disappointment.

I loved the premise and the concept of the book, but the execution was very lackluster. I don't know how Maureen Johnson managed to turn such a great concept into a story that was utterly boring, but... here we are. You would think I would be excited to read about all the different locations our main character visits during her journey, me being a travel enthusiast and all. But I didn't really care. Some of the backdrop was nice, sure, but I needed more than that in order to appreciate the story.

But, to be honest, I think the thing that made me dislike this book so much is the main character. I don't think I've ever read a book that had a more bland main character. The book is told from Ginny's perspective, and yet, we never really get to know her. She never shares her thoughts or emotions with the reader, and so it's very hard to connect with her. Honestly, the main character could have been a robot and I wouldn't have noticed a difference (maybe it would have been more interesting then?). Her dead aunt, who is sending the letters, has more personality than her, and we only get to read the 2-3 pages that she wrote with each letter.

I'm starting to believe that Maureen Johnson is really not an author for me. I love the premise of her books, but the execution always feels lackluster.
Profile Image for Reynje.
272 reviews965 followers
August 3, 2011

2.5 stars

I enjoyed this enough as I read it - I was sick, jetlagged and in need of something pleasantly escapist – and this book did the trick. It’s a light, fun read and I quite like Maureen Johnson’s writing (admittedly more so in her other books than this one, though).

But ultimately I just found the story rather forgettable (and a little implausible). I found Ginny to be a fairly delible (thank you, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks for the neglected positive there!) character, and consequently didn’t form much of a connection with her story.

Also, personal taste here, but the name “Keith”? No, just.. no.
Profile Image for Merythapy.
84 reviews1 follower
April 13, 2011
Yeah, it's unrealistic: no parents would send their daughter off for a month with no contact, especially if she's never travelled before. But... who really cares? It's a fairy tale.

A lot of the travel stuff *was* very authentic and struck a very strong chord with me. The only thing I really missed were the Canadians, although she definitely got the Taking Up With Random Australians thing.

I think it would be a great book to read before traveling, or while traveling. Excellent travel feel, with just enough romance and mystery to keep you interested.
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