Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes was an interesting story, to say the least. It was the first novel by Maureen Johnson that I've read and is completely out of my normal genre realm. I usually read mysteries, thrillers, and a lot of fantasy and horror. But, I found this book on clearance at a store and picked it up for a light read. It was good, but at the same time, there were a lot of problems with the story.
As a lot of reviewers said, it didn't make any sense that a seventeen year old's parents would be fine with her going across the world with no means of communication, a limited supply of money, and instructions from her irresponsible, dead aunt. I can see how the parents HAD to agree with this for the sake of the story, but I don't understand why Johnson just couldn't have made Ginny eighteen or nineteen? It would make loads more sense if the main character was just in college.
Aside from the obvious complaint though, there were also a lot more issues with Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes. The characters were very underdeveloped. The only one that we seemed to get a clear picture of was Aunt Peg, and she's not even alive in the story. The rest- Ginny, Keith, Richard, etc.- we get no description of besides hair color. None of their personalities change as the story goes on, either. They all just remain boring the whole time, especially Ginny. For someone going on an adventure through Europe, she complained a lot. Instead of being excited for her experiences, she had more anger about everything that was going wrong- when she didn't even have to DO anything, her aunt provided it all. Her relationship with Keith was weird, too. I didn't see a huge connection. They only met a couple of times, but Ginny randomly decided she was in love with him? If anything, I would think Keith would find her creepy- randomly giving him money, showing up at his house, finding his email address online, etc.
A couple minor things irked me, as well. It was unrealistic for Ginny to make it through the story so safely, when she trusted everyone she met. She was lucky that the worst thing to happen to her was a stolen bag. Also, all of the events in the novel seemed really sporadic and didn't have much of an impact on the plot. You were introduced to characters that would exist for a couple pages and then leave forever (Olivia, David, and Carrie and her friends) and she went to random locations that didn't give her any progress. I understand that the second one was due to instructions from her aunt, but I still think that there should have been more of a point to it. After Rome, all of the tasks seemed to get really meaningless. Another thing I noticed was that there was sometimes too much description for my liking. I understand that the book was centered around travelling, so a certain amount of setting needed to be discussed, but I did find myself getting bored with reading on and on about the scenery every now and then.
Finally, one of my biggest issues with the book was the end. If you don't want any spoilers, please just skip this paragraph and go onto the next. Ginny losing the last letter was a huge letdown. To me, it was like one of those books where a character goes through a wild adventure and then wakes up to it being a mere dream. The story lead up to this final letter (for goodness' sake, the twelfth letter didn't even have any instructions- it just warned that the last one was a huge challenge), only for it to be swept away at the last second. I can see that Johnson made a sequel, but was it even intended at the time? It seemed like the author wasn't sure how to make this last letter, so instead decided to simply not include it.
All in all, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes was a fairly good read, but by far not the best. I probably would have given it 3.5 stars if I could, but rounded it down to three, due to the amount of errors that I noticed after reading it. On the pro side, the plot was refreshing, the writing was good, there were some comical moments, and the various settings made the story even more interesting. I read most of the story in one day and definitely plan on picking up the sequel. It's driving me nuts that I don't know what the last letter said, haha. I would recommend this novel to those interested that are looking for a fun, different read. Just don't expect something amazing.