REVIEW: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

REVIEW: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson13 Little Blue Envelopes (Little Blue Envelope #1) by Maureen Johnson
Published: HarperTeen (2009), eBook, 368pg
Source: Freebie
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction


When Ginny receives thirteen little blue envelopes and instructions to buy a plane ticket to London, she knows something exciting is going to happen. What Ginny doesn’t know is that she will have the adventure of her life and it will change her in more ways than one. Life and love are waiting for her across the Atlantic, and the thirteen little blue envelopes are the key to finding them in this funny, romantic, heartbreaking novel. (from Amazon)



This is my first Maureen Johnson book. Can you believe it? Of course I knew who she was way before I downloaded this book, but I just hadn’t gotten around to reading anything of hers before now. And now? Yeah! I think I’ll probably read more of her books.

13 Little Blue Envelopes reminds me a lot of John Green’s books, although obviously with a female protagonist instead of male. I also want to say that the romance is less important in this book than in some of JG’s books. In JG’s books I think a lot of a character’s development stems from the meeting of or time spent with the love interest. In Envelopes there’s a bit of romance, but it’s secondary to the other things and I do feel like Ginny’s development mostly comes from her experiences abroad as a whole, not just with the romance.

Or maybe I feel that way because I really hated the romance in this book. I’m not sure! All I know is that Ginny’s love interest skeezed the hell out of me, so maybe I flung that part in the “less important” folder of my brain in an effort to cope.

Anyway, my favorite part of the book was, of course, the traveling. I love it when characters travel! The relationship between the physical movement and the emotional/personal growth, etc. is probably the only sort of trope that won’t ever annoy me. Plus, Ginny goes through so many good and bad things that happen when you travel that it simultaneously made me want to go to Europe right now and stay at home cowering with my head under the covers.

Unfortunately, because it’s got all this stuff in it– travel, romance, something with family– it did feel a bit all over the place. Sometimes those things go really well together, but sometimes they can seem disparate. I feel like the book didn’t entirely know where it was going. If the envelopes and Ginny’s personal growth in relation to them were the most important part of the story (which I’m assuming is the case), then why did it feel like it was being pushed aside for other, almost nonsensical things?

Some of the travel sequences especially felt out of place, because I couldn’t see how they contributed to the overall story. Like, when Ginny stayed with that uber-touristy family in Amsterdam (was it Amsterdam?). What was the point of that, besides giving her a way to stay, of course? What was the point of the daughter telling Ginny about her personal life, when it came out of nowhere and didn’t seem to even affect Ginny or the plotline?

I suppose all the “nonsensical” things were there to show how weird and wonderful traveling solo is, but I still think it made the story less tightly plotted than it could have been. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading about Ginny and her aunt’s envelopes, and I definitely want to read the next book. I think the sequel has less with the creepy boyfriend, so that’s good!

Read: September 4, 2011

17 thoughts on “REVIEW: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson”

  1. This one has been on my TBR list for a while now – I actually read the first few chapters but then somehow got distracted and never picked the book up again. I like the idea of the envelopes. I should really dig this one out of the pile again soon!

    1. That’s good to know. I was hoping it’d be better, if only because it doesn’t have the creepy boyfriend as much (right?).

  2. I felt pretty much the same, but I probably would give it a slightly lower rating. I didn’t like Ginny, or her weird adventures. And, yeah, that boyfriend was creepy. I was disappointed that the book seemed to focus on all these other things and not on the envelopes like I wanted it to.

    1. See, I DID like Ginny (probably because she reminded me a bit of myself?), but I could do without some of her weird adventures, too.

  3. Somehow i got subscribed to Maureen Johnson’s twitter feed (I don’t usually subscribe to authors) and I love her! But I dont’ normally read or like YA. because she’s so fun on Twitter, though, I may have to give it a try sometime…

    1. That’s pretty much how I decided to finally go ahead and read one of her books, too. Plus, it was free. I couldn’t resist!

  4. I didn’t really get the romance in this book. They met and then suddenly they were a Thing? What, when? Did I miss something?

    It was an okay book, but I’m really looking forward to her new one (The Name of the Star) which should be en route to me this very moment. Woot!

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