13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

“an indulgence to curl up with on a rainy day”

After the death of her beloved wild-child aunt, Ginny receives a package. Inside is a bundle of blue envelopes, numbered one to thirteen. The letters – each to be read only after the instructions in the previous one have been carried out – send Ginny off on an adventure that will carry her to the places Aunt Peg loved: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Copenhagen and Greece. Ginny is to take no maps or guidebooks; money is taken care of ; she’s to rely on the people onto whose doorsteps her aunt’s instructions drop her. It’s a strange and thrilling and confusing trip. What is her aunt trying to tell Ginny? Is it something about Aunt Peg or about Ginny herself?

This book is an indulgence to curl up with on a rainy day or if you’re struck by lurgy. It’s utterly charming in the manner of a good romcom. (And, in case you’re wondering, there is both rom and com in 13 Little Blue Envelopes.) The characters, even those who have only a few moments on stage, are sharply drawn and believable, particularly Ginny herself, not brave and bold, not the kind of person who chooses to set off alone to another continent with a backpack, feeling that the only interesting things she has ever done are when she was with her aunt, gradually finding her own strength and purpose. I love the authenticity of Ginny’s travels: the loneliness even when surrounded by other people, the chance meetings with kindred spirits, the dread of looking like a tourist, the feeling that foreign money isn’t really real – that’s exactly what going travelling is like in my experience. I could forgive the book its rather trite and too neat ending because Ginny’s adventure itself  was far from neat, but rather had setbacks and mishaps that Aunt Peg’s plans hadn’t taken into account.

13 Little Blue Envelopes isn’t going to change your life but it’ll make you smile.

Claire Watts

More to Read!

Looking for more books that feature travelling? There’s John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, but I’m guessing you’ve already read that. What about Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss? And I’ve written one too – How Do You Say Gooseberry in French? is about an English girl spending the summer with a French family.

Claire Watts writes and edits fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults. Her latest YA novel is Gingerbread & Cupcake

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