Thursday, May 5, 2011

Re-review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Tags: YA, contemporary, traveling, art, Europe



In light of the recent publication of 13LBE's sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope (review to come soon), I seized the opportunity to read one of my favorite books from when I was younger. This is my third time reading 13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES: the first two times I read it, I read it in one night, staying up past 3am to finish it. Yes, this included my first reread of the book. I still couldn't put it down.

What makes 13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES so compelling that I couldn't put it down even during rereads? It is probably due in large part to its spectacular premise. 13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES takes you on a literal adventure across Europe, traveling the sort of paths you've always wished you could take. It will leave you wishing you had a cool artist aunt, too (although Aunt Peg was dead in the book, so you probably don't want that to happen to your own aunt), to send you on a crazy trip across Europe with a handful of letters.

More than that, however, I think that Maureen Johnson has a splendid way of narrating that will ring with readers. She clearly channels the voice of a teenager in her writing: if, for example, Ginny sees a cool sight on her travels, she will only describe it to the extent of her vocabulary, and then fill in the rest of the narration with something along the lines of "that light-blue pointed thingy." You can practically see Ginny--and Maureen Johnson--narrating this with tongue firmly in cheek, though, which saves the narration from sounding "dumb" and instead makes it sound delightfully, relatably real.

If you haven't read 13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES, now is a great time to pick it up, with its sequel so readily at hand. There is a good reason why it's still in print five years after its initial publication: it is exciting, heartwarming, funny, and full of wonder. It is truly one of the "YA classics" of our time.

Cover discussion: I am so not a fan of this updated cover. I definitely liked the last one better, even if it is also very stock photo-y. It's the one that got me to pick up the book in the first place, after all.

HarperCollins / Sept. 2006 (reprint) / Paperback / 317pp. / $8.99

Personal copy.


  1. Still haven't read it, but it's in my to-read pile. I'm glad to see that everyone likes it so much though, makes the anticipation greater. :)

  2. I also read and loved 13 Little Blue Envelopes. I highly recommend it!

  3. I read this one a few years back and enjoyed it, but definitely was as bowled-over as I'd hoped (or expected) to be. I think that if I were to pick it up again, I'd have a totally different view of the story -- especially after having gone to Europe myself. Johnson is such a fun writer and I loved her Scarlett books, so I think I owe this series another shot!

  4. I really need to read one of M. Johnson's books; they really seem like something I would enjoy!

  5. I'm just glad she FINALLY wrote the sequel. I loved the first book until the end, which I felt cheated the reader. I'm definitely looking forward to finishing the actual story.

    My favorites of Johnson's books are Devilish (which is funny and has very strong female characters) and Girl At Sea, which is a much more complete action/adventure story than Envelopes.

  6. Great review! I just got this one, so I hope to read it real soon, I'm looking forward to it! :-)

  7. Hey did you know that she's coming to the Barnes and Noble in Fairless Hills on June 11?

  8. Interesting that you liked the first cover better because I found the first cover completely off the mark. Ginny was such a shy, stand-offish character that I don't think she remotely resembled the girl on the cover - baring midriff, cocky stance and all.


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