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13 Little Blue Envelopes Hardcover – August 23, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8-10–This whirlwind adventure begins as Ginny, 17, reads a letter from her free-spirited, unpredictable Aunt Peg, who has recently passed away. She is given several destinations, four rules, and the instruction to open one envelope upon her arrival at each place. Thus begins a rapid tour of Europe as the teen struggles to accomplish the tasks established by her aunt. The motivation: Ginny wants to understand the woman's wanderlust and, possibly, she just wants a connection to her beloved relative. Throughout her adventures in Rome, Paris, Greece, England, and the Netherlands, the teen collects pieces of Peg's past and learns more about her rapid departure. She also learns much about herself. The reason Ginny is sent to meet certain people is not always clear; sometimes she (and readers) wonder about the point of the exercise. Overall, though, the novel drives home the importance of family, love, and the value of connections that you make with people. It is a quick read that will interest high school girls.–Emily Garrett, Naaman Forest High School, Garland, TX
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 8-11. Seventeen-year-old Ginny had always admired her aunt Peg, a free-spirited artist who often disappeared for months, most recently to Europe. Now Aunt Peg has died of brain cancer, and in a characteristically cryptic gesture made before her death, she arranged for her niece to receive a plane ticket to London, where Ginny will begin a series of adventures. Guided by Peg's friends and the instructions in each of 13 letters her aunt wrote, Ginny sets off across Europe. Staying with Peg's contacts or in hostels, Ginny begins to peel away some of the mythic layers surrounding her aunt, even as she falls into thrilling escapades and a blossoming romance. Johnson's plot stretches plausibility. Would Ginny's practical mother really have agreed to such a solo, undefined journey? But readers will probably overlook any improbabilities and willingly accompany Ginny through her sensitive, authentically portrayed experiences--uncomfortable, lonely, giddy, and life changing--as she pieces together family mysteries and discovers herself. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: 13 Little Blue Envelopes (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; 1St Edition edition (August 23, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060541415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060541415
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (214 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #741,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Maureen Johnson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several YA novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Suite Scarlett, and The Name of the Star. She has also done collaborative works, such as Let It Snow (with John Green and Lauren Myracle), and The Bane Chronicles (with Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan). Maureen has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University. She has been nominated for an Edgar Award and the Andre Norton Award, and her books appear frequently on YALSA and state awards lists. Time Magazine has named her one of the top 140 people to follow on Twitter (@maureenjohnson). Maureen lives in New York, and online on Twitter (or at

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#61 in Books > Teens
#61 in Books > Teens

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Erika Sorocco on December 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Seventeen-year-old Ginny was always in awe of her Aunt Peg, a free-spirited woman who loved the arts and would often disappear for months on end, only to show-up once again with tales of a fabulous adventure she had taken part in. Aunt Peg's most recent adventures took place throughout Europe. That is, before she died of a brain tumor. However, before her death, Aunt Peg made arrangements for Ginny to explore Europe the same way she did - with no plans at all whatsoever. Ginny receives a package from her deceased that includes a plane ticket to London, a list of rules, and thirteen little blue envelopes that she must open one at a time, in order to truly experience the whole "backpacking adventure."

There was something about Maureen Johnson's 13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES that appealed to me from the moment I saw the cover, and read the synopsis about the story. An air of mystery and adventure that drew me in from page one. Ginny is an intriguing character, who can seem aloof, or shy at times, but is really fun once you truly delve into the story, and see what she's about. The adventures that she takes part in - and allows the reader to accompany her on - are exciting, and leave the reader ready to truly explore Europe on a backpacking trip of his/her own. Johnson has done a marvelous job of accurately conveying the mixed feelings of a teenager on her own, and the butterflies of first love, and has wrapped them all together in this nice little package. A first-class novel that will be cherished for generations.

Erika Sorocco

Book Review Columnist for The Community Bugle Newspaper
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Terri Rowan on December 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The fact that Ginny has received a package of thirteen blue envelopes from her eccentric but favorite aunt telling her to travel around the world is not particularly shocking. Being instructed to open each envelope in order isn't so strange either. What makes it a surprise is the fact that Ginny's aunt Peg has been dead for months. She was young and full of life, and her death was a shock.

Now, though, she is sending Ginny on a journey. It starts in London and will end up...who knows where? On the way, she'll meet interesting people, see exotic places, and, most of all, get to better know the aunt she lost.

The idea behind the story is original and interesting, sure to be appreciated by readers for the fact that it is both fun and meaningful. The characters are all interesting, unique, and believable. Readers will come to know Peg, who has been dead for three months at the start of the novel, through her letters and the journey she took through Europe that Ginny is retracing. Among the interesting people met by Ginny on her travels are Keith, a performance artist who was a bit of a delinquent in the past, and Richard, a friend of her aunt's who once sold underpants to the Queen of England, and various other colorful characters.

For some reason, it took me awhile to get into this story, but once I did, I was hooked. The ending was a little more open than I would have liked, but this is a good book that teens are sure to enjoy. Fans of Maureen Johnson's other books are sure to like 13 LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES. Having read two of her other novels (DEVLILISH and THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE ), I was slightly disappointed with this one; it didn't grab my attention quite as quickly or keep my mind quite as occupied as those other two books, but it was still enjoyable, thought-provoking, and certainly worth reading.

Reviewed by Jocelyn Pearce

Posted 12/20/2006

4.5-BOOKS on WUAT = 5-STARS on Amazon
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mary Danielson on April 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
I've been a reader of Maureen Johnson's blog for awhile now, but hadn't gotten to any of her books yet. On the insistence of others, I broke down and ordered 13 Little Blue Envelopes - Wow! I wish I'd picked this up sooner!

The plot itself is interesting, with the added bonus of being much different from most of the YA books on the shelves right now. Throughout the book, Johnson throws surprises and great chances for character development at the protagonist, Ginny, who shows fabulous arc through the book. Not only does she have travel opportunities that will leave readers wanting to hop on the next Trans-Atlantic, but her writing is fresh enough to keep the pages flying by as well.

Johnson is well known for being one of the most accessible, entertaining YA writers in the field right now. She definitely doesn't disappoint with Little Blue Envelopes - her concise, realistic prose and eye for charming, absurd details makes this a definite keeper. If you're looking for a fun, surprisingly moving book...this is the one for you!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on September 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Seventeen-year-old Ginny is living a rather normal, quiet life in New Jersey until a letter arrives from her quirky Aunt Peg. The letter contains a thousand dollars in cash and instructions: get a passport, book a one-way flight to London, then go to an address in New York to pick up a package before heading to the airport. Aunt Peg also lists specific rules: Take only what fits in a backpack. Leave credit cards, money, camera, cell phone, and laptop at home, and have no contact by electronic means from Europe with anyone in America. It seems unbelievable that Ginny would agree to these terms, but she does and is soon on her way to London with the New York package that contains twelve more letters of instruction.

Letter #2, which she is told to open on the plane, sends her to a flat in London where a man named Richard seems to be expecting her. Richard's answer to Peg's riddle "What did you sell the queen?" provides the password to an ATM account for Ginny that will fund her many adventures. Letter #3 instructs Ginny to give a charitable donation to an artist. After a few false starts Ginny stumbles upon a strange little play entitled "Starbucks: The Musical" and buys all the tickets to every performance. She becomes involved with the play's strange producer/director/star, Keith, who accompanies her to Edinburgh, Scotland where Letter #4 sends her. The next two envelopes guide Ginny on to Rome to statues of the vestal virgins.

Ginny is adopted by a noisy, over-organized American family touring Holland and spends five days with them. Her backpack and everything she owns, except her passport and ATM card, are stolen in Greece. Sometimes Ginny runs into dead ends as she tries to follow the instructions in the letters. She often gets lost and has to retrace her steps.
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