Title: 13 Little Blue Envelopes
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperTeen, 2006
Ginny is an average girl. Quiet, shy and as normal as you could be. So when she sets off to London under the direction of her recently deceased runaway aunt, it takes her by surprise. This is completely out of the ordinary, but then again it's right in line with what she should expect from Aunt Peg, who ran off to Europe years earlier. Following the directions of letters in blue envelopes that her aunt wrote before she died, Ginny goes on a tour that starts off in London and takes her across the continent. Along the way, she meets some old friends of her aunt's, some new friends of her own, and a fun and funny English guy, of course.
I loved reading about Ginny in all the different countries; in fact, I was swept away immediately when she first set foot in London. Having spent a semester there, I fondly remember many of the places and sites Ginny saw and visited. It's also great for people who haven't been to any of these places, since Johnson does such a great job at setting the scene. It's a European tour from your bedroom (or backyard, or wherever you're reading it).
Johnson has a very gentle tone to her storytelling, and it was a nice change. Most of the YA I've recently been reading has been, for lack of a better word, tense. But the third-person narration (also a nice change) was unhurried and relaxing. That's not to say nothing exciting happened; it was just written in such a way that lacked urgency, which I found to be a good thing.
All of the characters were great fun to read about, whether it is the mischievous Keith, the nutso artist Mari, or the houseboat-dwelling Knud. I found myself smiling a lot while reading about them all.
Throughout, there is also the sadness Ginny feels about her aunt, who disappeared without so much as a goodbye. Because she was absent so long, her death doesn't quite feel real to Ginny at first, and we see the progression of her grief as she travels around Europe.
I'm looking forward to the sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope, which will be released on Tuesday. I'm eager to see what happens to Ginny in this last adventure her Aunt Peg will send her on.
Also, for a limited time, 13 Little Blue Envelopes is a free e-book for both Kindle and Nook. I'm guessing it's free for Sony too, but I'm not sure where to look for that link.
Disclosure: I got this e-book for free from bn.com.