“13 Little Blue Envelopes” –A Book Review

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13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson is a sensational summer read! This quirky novel is sure to bring out the adventurous side in everyone.

One day Ginny, a New Jersey native, gets a letter from her Aunt Peg (who died three months ago) containing $1,000 and instructions for her to buy a backpack and a plane ticket to London, then go to a Chinese restaurant in New York to pick up envelope 2.

The instructions for what to bring along to the UK are as follows:

Rule #1: You may bring only what fits in your backpack. Don’t try to fake it out with a purse or a carry-on.

 Rule #2: You may not bring guidebooks, phrase books, or any kind of foreign language aid. And no journals.

 Rule #3: You cannot bring extra money or credit/debit cards, traveler’s checks, etc. I’ll take care of all that.

Rule #4: 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.

Now all Ginny has to do is pick up envelope 2, go to London, and see what kind of adventure her (dead) whirlwind aunt has in store for her over the summer vacation. Of course it was hell trying to convince her parents to let her do this, not to mention that it goes against everything well-organized, practical Ginny stands for. But it’s her aunt, and the promise of these 13 little blue envelopes is the last thing on earth Ginny has of her. Thus, she strikes of for the UK.

The premise of this entire Teen novel is for Ginny to travel around the UK in search of these envelopes that her aunt has left for her. With each new envelope comes a new set of instructions: Places to go, people to find, things to do.

Along her journey, the envelopes send Ginny to England, Scotland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Greece, giving her whacky activities to complete throughout her voyage.

And of course, Ginny meets a peculiar artist along the way that she can’t stop thinking about, and who appears throughout her expedition. To give you a taste of the adorableness of this book, here is a quote from a letter she sends to her best friend back home.

“Keith was HERE. In PARIS. And HE FOUND ME. I know it sounds impossible, but it’s true, and it’s really not that magical of an explanation. But what matters is that we made out in a graveyard and slept on a park bench.”

This entire novel is not only charming, and adventurous, but it also gives you a window to the soul of a young girl dealing with grief for the first time. I cannot say enough good things about this tale. I give it five stars!

*And it does have an open ending, but thankfully she decided to go ahead and write a sequel. The Last Little Blue Envelope is equally awesome! 🙂 

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“The Name of the Star”—A Book Review

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I have mixed feelings about The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson, and its sequel, The Madness Underneath. I really enjoyed her book 13 Little Blue Envelopes, and I guess I was comparing this series to that one.

Aurora “Rory” Deveaux is from a swampy town near New Orleans, Louisiana. Both of her parents take a job teaching American Law at the University of Bristol for one year in England. Rory decides to join her parents for the year in England and to attend a boarding school in London called Wexford.

Rory has kind of an awkward personality. She’s a little ditsy and talks ALL THE TIME. About nothing in particular, really. And she makes up stuff a lot just to have a story to tell. Now, I’m not going to lie, some of the shit that comes out of her mouth (or in her thoughts) is quite funny.

Shortly after Rory’s arrival at Wexford, killings start happening around London that mimic those of Jack the Ripper. The weird part: No images are ever caught of the killer on any CCTVs.

Then while at dinner one night, as Rory is rambling on about some dramatic tale, she chokes on a meat pie and nearly dies (yes, by choking on a meat pie…I know, right?!). This (ridiculous) near-death experience gives her “The Sight,” enabling her to see ghosts. She finds out about a team of Secret Ghost Police in London and starts hanging out with them to try to catch the killer ghost, because he keeps hanging around Rory at school and she starts seeing him everywhere—and no else can.

The story is well written and the narration is quite humorous, but the main character kind of got on my nerves. I had a hard time relating to her. The whole “ghost serial killer” thing was well told and pretty creepy…it had the desired effect of making me jumpy. I found the plot to be a bit slow moving, though. And I thought the ending to The Madness Underneath was a bit ludicrous, but I am still intrigued enough in the series to read the next installment when it comes out.

The Name of the Star is on the 2014 Louisiana Teen Readers’ Choice Nominated Title List (LTRC), due to the main character originating from a fictional town in Louisiana (my home state).

All in all, I would give this book (and its sequel) three out of five stars.

 

Great quotes from the series:

 

“Where I come from, it’s too hot to run, and it’s generally not encouraged. The joke is, if you see someone running in Benouville, you run in the same direction, because there’s probably something really terrible right behind them.” –The Name of the Star

 

“Annoy a southerner, and we will drain away the moments of your life with our slow, detailed replies until you are nothing but a husk of your former self and that much closer to death.”—The Name of the Star

 

 “On the way here, I saw someone pissing on a wall,” I said. “It reminded me of you.”

“That was me,” he replied. “I was writing a poem about your beauty.” –The Madness Underneath