13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Ginny was always close to her Aunt Peg. So when Peg took off for Europe without telling anyone and then died of cancer, Ginny was heartbroken. Then she received a mysterious package containing little blue envelopes, clues and rules to follow and before she knows it, she’s off on a whirlwind tour of Europe, hoping to learn more about her aunt and maybe herself. It’s a fabulous premise. Evidently, teens and tweens love it. I trust Ms. Yingling, and she says so.
I was heartily disappointed. First off, I had an incredible time suspending disbelief. We’re supposed to buy into the idea that Ginny’s parents let their 17 year old daughter go to Europe, with no money, no phone (and no permission to call home) on a quest devised by a woman with both a history of flaky behavior and a brain tumor. I have no children, but I can still tell you there is no way in heck I would let this happen. Furthermore, I was bothered by how poorly the cities were portrayed. It made me wonder if Johnson had ever been to Europe. London=Harrods. Paris=Cafes. Rome=Gypsies and Dangerous Men. Amsterdam=Canals. Copenhagen=Amsterdam. These are exciting, history rich, beautiful cities. They deserved their due. Besides, when I read a travel book, I’m doing it at least in part for the vicarious living. If you won’t even spot me an Eiffel Tour when in Paris, I’m going to be bitter. Also, Ginny should have been bitter. Fly halfway around the world and you don’t even get to see the high points? I’d be pretty cranky. Finally, I sort of loathed the boy she took up with. Ah well. Still, it’s a great premise, reasonably clean and its intended audience likes it.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – A girl who is only mentioned in passing in the book got pregnant and had an abortion. There is kissing, a reference to lizard tongue, making out, and some unwanted advances. Quite a big deal is made about Ginny being a virgin, and no worries, she stays that way. There is skinny dipping. Also, Ginny learns that a character is gay.
Profanity – “retarded” again, which I hate. “shut up”, “hell,” “asshole,”
Death, Violence and Gore – Ginny’s aunt has died. A boy has dangerous hobbies like lighting his pants on fire.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – There’s quite a bit of underage drinking (sometimes until the point of vomiting) and there’s smoking as well.
Frightening or Intense Things – Ginny mentions that she knows a girl who dated a guy who was sent to a mental hospital.