Maybe it’s my London nostalgia, but I really enjoyed Maureen Johnson‘s 13 Little Blue Envelopes, which she offered for free these past couple of weeks. Though there was an excess of deus ex machina, and it certainly isn’t a “how-to” manual for traveling abroad, it’s a lot like Eat, Pray, Love in that it’s more of a personal journey simply mirrored by a geographical one.
Ginny is a painfully shy girl drawn into a quest to find herself by the arrival of a package filled with 13 little blue envelopes from her recently deceased, free-spirited Aunt Peg. She travels throughout the continent, following the odd instructions of her aunt, seeing the underbelly and out of the way places where her aunt spent her missing years. In the end, she finds family, friends, and a good deal about herself.
While I agree with other critics who comment that it’s rather implausible that parents would let a teenage girl travel throughout Europe alone. That danger was acknowledged by the near-rape in Rome and the theft of her money and bags in Greece. While it’s certainly an conceit that this journey would be as nearly effortless as it was, I think that Aunt Peg acted as a metaphorical guardian angel for Ginny. This also accounts for the numerous instances of deus ex machina infused throughout the story, making it possible for Ginny to have the experiences she does. I think that Ginny, the withdrawn, fearful girl, learns to climb out of her shell and experience the world on the crazy quest.
Also, I think it’s Maureen Johnson’s writing style that I love. She is compelling and interesting, finding humorous detail throughout. It certainly isn’t deep, hard literature, but I really enjoyed it and blew through it. I look forward to reading the sequel which comes out soon.