13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson is a young adult book, which is why many adults would never pick it up. I have a delighted interest in YA novels, since I plan on writing them and the way Maureen Johnson weaves words is exquisite. I read this book a looong time ago and had forgotten almost the entire plot, so I decided to read it again and found myself enraptured once more.
Ginny Blackstone’s aunt has recently passed away. Her Aunt Peg has never been a stable member of the family, but she was the one person who made Ginny’s life more interesting. Now, three months after her death, Ginny receives a letter with explicit instructions from her dead aunt, to travel for the summer.
- You may bring only what fits in your backpack. Don’t try to fake it with a purse or a carry-on.
- You may not bring any guidebooks, phrase books, or any kind of foreign language aid. And no journals.
- You cannot bring extra money or credit/debit cards, traveler’s checks, etc. I’ll take care of all of that.
- No electronic crutches. This means no laptop, no cell phone, no music, and no camera. You can’t call home or communicate with people in the U. S. by Internet or telephone. Postcards and letters are acceptable and encouraged.
These are her instructions and she sets out on a wild adventure traveling through England, Scotland, Greece, Italy, Belgium, and France searching for the clues to the mystery of her aunt’s life and death.
I loved this book because it took me to places I’d been and could see clearly and places that I’d never been before, but now really want to go. I want to go to Corfu now and see the clear waters and I want to go to Belgium. I’ve never had a desire to do that before. I now have a desire to be a starving artist, and a crazy aunt who leaves her nieces money to travel the world. Not that I have any nieces, but you never know.
Johnson brought the world alive with her language and often had me laughing out loud. This is my favorite part:
Cecil Gage-Rathbone’s dove gray suit matched the business card that they had found stuck to the cabinet door. His cuff links shimmered discreetly from the ends of sleeves that had to be made of obscenely high-count cotton. He smelled tailored.
If Keith’s green Jittery Grande kilt, black shirt, and red tie threw Cecil at all, he didn’t show it. He introduced himself and shook hand with genuine pleasure, as if he had waited all his life to meet Keith and was full of sweet relief now that the moment had finally come.
I think I laughed for a full five minutes picturing this scene.
The other reason I loved this book was because it was CLEAN! Too many YA books are riddled with implicit sex, alcohol, etc. But Johnson wrote a book that I would ENCOURAGE my younger sisters to read. It was a delight to behold. It was a tad unrealistic, but who ever reads books for realism? We read to escape, to go to other lands, to live a life we can’t actually live. And that’s what this book offers. So if you have kids or if you, like me, enjoy YA fiction, pick it up.
That’s all for now!