13 Little Blue Envelopes, by Maureen Johnson

This isn’t technically my first e-book, since I’ve read two Cory Doctorow novels and Dracula on my computer, but it is the first e-book I’ve read portably, in this case using the Kindle app for my Android phone. I had originally downloaded the app to try to read Pride and Prejudice, but gave up on that for the audiobook version, and the poor app was destined to languish along with Angry Birds and Words with Friends.

BUT THEN! Maureen Johnson, whom I dedicatedly follow on the Twitters, decided to offer up 13 Little Blue Envelopes for FREE in advance of the publication of the sequel, The Last Little Blue Envelope. And while I am in love with Twitter Maureen, I have managed to read but one of her books proper, and so this situation presented itself as a win for everyone. It can even still be a win for you, as the book is still free for a few days yet, with all the pertinent links over at Maureen’s blog.

So first a note on the e-book format itself: it being on my phone, the book necessarily looked a little odd, what with sentences not fitting perfectly on short little lines and some formatting causing odd little line breaks here and there. And indeed, I felt a little lost without page numbers or an idea of the heft of the book. But I had an eye appointment right after work last week and got there, as usual, embarrassingly early, and so I pulled out my phone and started reading. I felt like Reed on Criminal Minds, “turning” pages at an alarming speed but still managing to understand them (if only I could do that for regular-sized books!), and though I was surprised by a chapter break here and there it still felt like reading a paper book. It being my phone, I wouldn’t want to read a large book in one go on it for fear of going blind by backlight, but it was perfect for the waiting room and for the times I was standing in line or otherwise bored.

And now for the story: It was okay. It, like its format, was perfect for the waiting room or standing in line et cetera, but I had some problems with it.

The driving force behind the story is the eponymous set of envelopes, which are left to our hero Ginny by her dead aunt who was a bit flighty in life. Her aunt, Peg, wants Ginny to go wander around Europe, following the path that Peg took after she left the States.

This seems pretty cool, except that the letters are constantly telling Ginny to go here or there IMMEDIATELY DO NOT PASS GO DO NOT GIVE YOURSELF A CHANCE TO DO WHAT YOU WANT and Ginny, being that sort of person, obliges without question. This makes me hate Ginny a bit, and it makes me hate Peg more considering that she herself did whatever she wanted. And as a consequence of Ginny up and leaving for somewhere new every ten seconds, the book felt quite rushed and unfinished and I just wanted it to slow the heck down and let me figure out what was going on HERE before I had to go THERE. And so there is that.

But! For all the rushing around, I was still quite engaged in the story; I wanted to know where Ginny would go next and what she would learn and who she would meet and if she’d ever get back to the cute guy from the beginning of her adventures. And although Maureen Johnson does not quite write the way she tweets (for then her stories would go on for ages), I am still drawn in by her turns of phrase. And and, I love the way that she describes all of the weird things that go on in foreign countries, like washing machines in kitchens and oddly labeled bathrooms and other things that you don’t really think about until they’re staring you in the face.

So, on the whole, I do not regret the time I’ve spent with this book. The free version comes with a preview of the sequel, which preview I read and which did not really entice me to put the book on hold. But I am excited for Maureen’s upcoming Jack the Ripper mystery series, which seems slightly more up my alley.

Recommendation: For YA fans who like a good road-trip story or a good jaunt about Europe.

Rating: 7/10
(A to Z Challenge)