Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review - Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes

13 Little Blue EnvelopesRemember Maureen Johnson? She's that author I quoted in my last review who said hilarious things. Up until recently, I referred to her as 'my favourite author whose books I hadn't read.' Not anymore. I took a risk (admittedly, a very low risk...) at buying one of her books, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, at the end of May, and I read it very recently. What can I say? I was missing out.

What did you think of the book?
First of all: I loved the concept of the story. I don't have a mad aunt who sends me all around the world with very little instructions to guide me along the way, and rules that stop me bringing guide books, money or anything else that might be useful going across continents and oceans. Second of all: I loved the characters. Ginny was a great protagonist. She was friendly, she was funny and best of all: she was ridiculously bad at being a popular girl stereotype and everyone still liked her. I loved the ensemble of new and weird people entering her life, the mad little ideas her aunt had, the opportunistic letters and the feeling of everything needing to work out for Ginny, from a reader's perspective.

How does it compare to other books you've read?
If I am being perfectly honest - which I aim to be in my reviews - the only other books close to this one that I've read are those by John Green (er...all of his novels that hit the shelves) and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Johnson wrote a book that was much more light-hearted than Green does. This isn't to say either one of them is better than the other; rather, the happy feelings you get from Johnson's book are marred by much less sadness (especially when you compare it to Looking For Alaska, which made me an awful lot more.) Yes, you read that bracket right: more.

More? What do you mean more?
Let's be clear: a book that is only filled with happiness, with laughter, with strange people, can be good, but not great. To be great, the book has to inspire a lot more emotions from the spectrum. I laughed a lot while reading this book, but it does have its sad moments. On top of that, you really want Ginny to succeed in whatever she thinks her quest is. Oddly, you don't necessarily want her to ever go home, even when she first arrives scared and lonely in London. This would ruin the story, but aside from that you just want her to keep following through with the quest her aunt sent her on.

What was your favourite quirky moment?
My experience of Maureen Johnson is that she's a little bit quirky. If you saw her commentary on the Royal Wedding, or if you looked at my last review, or if you follow her on Twitter, you'll know this is definitely an understatement. So, I'll attempt to keep this spoiler free, but I definitely have to say that the play she made up for the book is definitely one of my favourite quirky moments in the book. Maybe not the best play in the world, but definitely good for what it is.

Who would you recommend this book to?
If you like young adult literature, the works of John Green and/or travel fiction, this is a good for you. It's funny, heart-warming and that little bit of delightful that every reader needs every once in a while. The characters are likeable, weird and interesting, the plot equally so. I couldn't put it down.

What next?
Well, I have another Maureen Johnson book to read, but not quite yet. Next week we've got another triple-set of reviews (compensating for the lack of reviews this summer) and I've got to write a helluva lot of fiction. Also, I think I want to travel everywhere now. Thanks Maureen, my bank account and job will love you for this... I may have to postpone it for a little while. And I don't think I'll be following Ginny's aunt's rules - I need money and guidebooks and stuff when I'm going anywhere. (Seriously, I once got lost on the way home, but that's a tale for another day...)

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