Monday, 9 July 2012

review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes

by Maureen Johnson
HarperTeen, August 23 2005
contemporary young adult

Before she died, Ginny's aunt Margaret -- Peg -- left a parting gift: 13 blue envelopes, with instructions to buy a plane ticket and jet to Europe. Following the increasingly wacky directions, Ginny traipses all over the continent, sometimes with a thief-turned-playwright named Keith, and learns about her aunt, the people she left behind, and herself.
The cover:

Notwithstanding the lame trend of girl-w/o-a-face, this cover's too tacky. Just the colour scheme itself screams "chicklit exclamation mark!!", but then add in that overused curlicue font and no background context whatsoever, and you've got a grade-A Tacky Cover.

The book:

One large, obtrusive aspect of this novel is the third-person point-of-view. And the protag's name. Third-person limited means the reader is a step removed from the main character's perspective, and in 13 Little Blue Envelopes we feel the entirety of that step. It rather makes Ginny seep with shades of Mary Jane-gray. In other words, she's not very interesting, and neither is her development.

This in turn affects the romance, as it simply makes no sense (to this reader) why Keith is attracted to Ginny. As well, the attempt at characterizing Keith  by having him infodump his irksome past is transparent and non-effective.  The rest of the side characters, with perhaps the exception of Richard, suffer through a brief cameo and then never return. (And who the heck is Miriam, beyond Ginny's apparent BFF?)

Now, the above fate mentioned re: side characters might've been more acceptable had this novel felt more like a road trip. As it was, Ginny transports herself with remarkable ease from locale to exotic locale, and since so much focus is laid on Aunt Peg's letters, the sense of discovery in a new place is muted.

There are excellently funny and quirky moments, but most of the emotion in 13 Little Blue Envelopes feels less than authentic (e.g. Ginny's eventual anger at her aunt), and the impression I'm left with is that this story matches its cover.

Rating: 2.2 out of 5