13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Disclaimer: this book is very hard to review without spoilers because it has so many issues. I have done my best to note all spoilers within the review, but this is my forewarning just in case.  

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There are some huge issues with 13 Little Blue Envelopes that can be ignored if you read it as surrealist fiction: close to reality but so very far away. The two numbered paragraphs below cover the main issues of this if it is realistic fiction. 

1) Let’s begin with “what the f*ck were her parents thinking?” They let a sixteen or seventeen-year-old hop on a plane to a different country, specifically, one of the most dangerous cities in that new country, with absolutely no way to contact them besides snail mail and no money based entirely on the whim of a woman who had something seriously wrong with her brain (like hallucinations and delusions).  

2) *Sort of spoiler, though the author makes it pretty obvious what’s going to happen* Ginny’s sort of boyfriend, Keith, just shows up in Paris. She calls him and mentions what hotel she’s in and he manages to travel from London to Paris in just a few hours without spending money because some people saw his (awful) play and decided to buy him and his crew a ticket to Paris. Riiiiiiight, because that kind of thing happens to me all the time. Also, this is pretty stalkerish I mean Ginny just says what hotel she’s at (in another country!) and he’s like sure thing I’ll surprise you by showing up in a few hours without asking if you even want me there. WTF? **end of spoiler** 

The kiss that Keith throws at her is super awkward and gross. Ginny doesn’t even describe it as romantic she says it’s sort of a friendly challenge or something. Eww. Don’t put your lips on someone unless you’re interested. She writes in letters that she’s in love with him, but then doesn’t feel anything when he kisses her, puts his arm around her, or talks to her. He kind of just exists so that Ginny can feel grateful that a boy is looking at her. I really hate Keith. When he does something stupid and Ginny calls him on it he flips out. He acts like a child and a creeper adult. Definitely not good book boyfriend material. 

Ginny also might fall under the category of too stupid to live. **Spoiler** When a boy a few years older than her saves her from being robbed by gypsies she decides to repay his kindness with coffee and oh yeah, an impromptu to his empty apartment where she accepts the opened bottle of wine (that he stored under his sink like a freak) and immediately begins to feel dizzy but still thinks it’s cool to make out. At the risk of victim-blaming I’m going to just say Ginny was being a dumb-ax 🙂 No she does not get raped or assaulted thank the gods, but that’s just good luck on her part. I don’t blame victims and if something had happened to her I would have absolutely blamed whoever did it to her, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think she was being insanely stupid. **end of spoiler** 

Ginny shares the misguided idea that if a person gets pregnant then that must mean the two people were having a lot of sex. This is a dangerous idea to plant in anyone’s head, but especially dangerous to share with teenagers. I think that YA authors have a certain amount of responsibility to share the facts with teenagers when it comes up in their novels. Sex, even just one time, can absolutely lead to a pregnancy. My mother got pregnant with her first child the first time she had sex.  

The cover where part of Ginny’s head is cut off and she’s showing her hip bones and stomach is atrocious. Let me state that I don’t care (within reason) what people wear or what they reveal with their clothing. However, Ginny is absolutely uninterested in revealing her body. She doesn’t usually judge other people for showing their body, but she is fairly reserved. She would not stand in that borderline provocative way while showing skin so close to her crotch. Another cover, where it again cuts off part of her head, shows her holding a blue envelope and smiling sweetly. That is way more Ginny than the other.   

I listened to this as an audiobook and the narrator was sub-par. She was not great at accents, and definitely not good enough for what is meant to be an international novel.  

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