I recently finished both Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope (after a ton of searching) because I was dying for more Maureen Johnson in my life. I knew I wanted to review them both, but figured it made more sense to do them together.
Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes is the story of Ginny, a relatively reserved high school senior who recently lost her beloved aunt to brain cancer. Sounds morbid, I know. It’s not. Said aunt left Ginny 13 envelopes, the first of which instructs her to go to London immediately, bringing only the contents of a hideous purple backpack: no phone, electronics, journal, NOTHING. And so begins Ginny’s whirlwind adventure through Europe. She meets new people and learns things about herself she never would have discovered without the help of her Aunt Peg. Ginny is almost at the end of her journey and scavenger hunt of sorts when her bag and all the envelopes are STOLEN.
Hence The Last Little Blue Envelope. This picks up some months after the first novel ended, when Ginny is contacted by Oliver, the person who found her bag and envelopes. Somewhat far fetched but anyway, Ginny is soon off on another European adventure, this time to find the lost art pieces of her Aunt Peg, and to reclaim her letters from the mysterious Oliver. Nothing goes as planned, but Ginny is given the closure she never received at the end of the first book.
I absolutely loved Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, and it made me want to backpack through Europe with just a set of letters and whatever I could carry on my back, meeting people every step of the way. I loved Ginny and watching her emerge from her comfort zone and get to know not only herself but Aunt Peg in a new way with every place she visited. I also absolutely loved Keith and Richard because I felt like they balanced Ginny out. I was somewhat let down by The Last Little Blue Envelope, because I feel like everything that was unresolved in the first book was still pretty much unresolved by the end of the second one. Sure Ginny got to traipse around Europe a second time, but Keith was almost a completely different character this time around, and Oliver didn’t get much explanation really at all. And I think Richard was left out of a lot of the decisions about Peg’s art and I feel like that was incredibly unrealistic. I guess overall it had closure but, I don’t know, I felt like it was missing the “magic” of Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes.
Overall, I would definitely recommend Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes because it will take you all over the world from the comfort of your own home, but I wouldn’t go crazy thinking you definitely need the sequel. It’s funny and Maureen Johnson writes really relatable and funny novels, but The Last Little Blue Envelope just doesn’t compare to her other books for me!
“I am a mass of contradictions.” – 13 Little Blue Envelopes
“You can never visit the same place twice. Each time, it’s a different story. By the very act of coming back, you wipe out what came before.” – The Last Little Blue Envelope
“Idea meets execution. Feeling becomes action. I don’t know why people find this idea so hard to get. I mean, you can throw any two people together, it doesn’t mean they’ll fall in love. Everyone knows this. No one quite understands how it works. It’s just those people, where they are in their lives, how circumstance throws them together. Sure, it’s happened before, but never quite in that way. Maybe they seem to come together all wrong. Maybe they’ve loved others. Maybe they don’t always do right by each other…but it’s still there, the love. The event. And no one would dare criticize it just because it’s common, it’s a little asymmetrical, and anyone can do it. It is unique. It is theirs. It is beautiful. They have made something that has been made a million times before and has also never existed before that moment.” – The Last Little Blue Envelope