Thursday, July 21, 2011
13 Little Blue Envelopes, written by Maureen Johnson. Harper, 2006. $9.99 ages 12 and up
"The package - an overstuffed
padded brown envelope - was
indeed addressed to her,
Virginia Blackstone, care of Alice
at 4th Noodle, New York City.
It was postmarked from London
and had the faintest aura of grease."
After Ginny's favorite aunt dies, a package arrives from her containing thirteen envelopes. The first one contains one thousand dollars and a note telling Ginny to buy a plane ticket. She does as she is told, as she's not doing much while she awaits the start of her final year in high school. Soon, she's off to England with instructions to find the place where Peg was staying when she died.
It's obvious from the start that Aunt Peg marches to the beat of a different drummer. She just up and left one day years ago without informing anyone, needing to find a better way of living that would feed her soul. Her profession, an artist, seemed to explain to her family the reason for her sudden departure and her failure to make regular contact. Ginny is given additional instructions that are to be followed to the letter. She can take only a backpack. No electronics, no travel guides or money and no contact with home while she is gone. Each envelope must be opened in turn, so long as the previous one has been read and the instructions followed.
Ginny is meant to discover what led Peg to live the life she chose, and to see who she really was. Perhaps, along the way, Ginny will make some discoveries about herself. Ginny is 17, a bit shy and too reserved to just set out on an adventure with no plan in place. However, she is intrigued by the envelopes and their instructions and she does exactly what Aunt Peg suggests, despite some bumps in the road. She meets Keith, an artist, and Richard, who was her aunt's flatmate. Richard has much to share with Ginny.
I really enjoyed the settings, and felt that the author had travelled the same paths, giving them an immediacy and reality that definitely held my interest. I read it quickly and with the same sense of adventure that Ginny was experiencing. From New York to London, to Paris, then Amsterdam and Greece and back to London. It was a most intriguing journey! I found myself eagerly anticipating each new lesson, and truth about Aunt Peg and about Ginny herself.
I look forward to its sequel, which is sitting at the top of my TBR pile in the library.