Thursday, February 21, 2013

book review: the last little blue envelope by maureen johnson

Book: The Last Little Blue Envelope
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (2011)

Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt Peg laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny's backpack--and the last little blue envelope inside--she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end.

Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he's found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure--one filled with old friends, new loves, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ginny finds she must hold on to her wits . . . and her heart. This time, there are no instructions

Guys, have you ever had that moment after finishing a book that you realize, "Crap, this is a sequel,"? Yeah, that was me... 2 weeks after reading this book... while browsing in Barnes and Noble. I felt like an idiot. But besides that, I have to say that my experience with this book was rather enjoyable.

I was introduced to Maureen Johnson when I read Let It Snow, a collection of three holiday short stories (kind of) by Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle that culminates into some sort of holiday book - I'll review that one later. I loved her writing in her portion of that book, so that led me to try to find others that she had written.

My first impressions of The Last Little Blue Envelope were fantastic. I mean, I didn't really know what I was expecting because, let's face it, you never do when it comes to a book. Even the best writers can let you down. BUT as for this novel, all panned out in the end in a good way. No worries.

The plot by far was my favorite part. The last of the letters Ginny's Aunt Peg wrote her before she died (on how best to experience Europe and live life in general) has surfaced after it was stolen with her backpack and belongings while in Greece following the twelfth envelope. While Ginny thinks Oliver, a British gent who found the envelope in a used backpack he bought, will just fork it over when she jets over to England, he has a different plan. See, Ginny's aunt is a famous artist, and Ginny's adventure with the first 12 envelopes provided her with an inheritance of paintings that made her some great money. So Oliver, who is apparently this super dislikable (not a word) person, is blackmailing Ginny, and they, along with Ginny's Euro friend (love interest) Keith and his girlfriend, go on this world wind adventure to experience Europe one last time to collect the art piece Aunt Peg has left behind in various countries. Sounds fun and adventurey, right? It's over Christmas vacation, too, so can you imagine Ireland on New Year's? Yeah, read it.

This brings me to characterization. First of all, I really liked Ginny. Obviously, that's something that should always be for a protagonist, that they're understood and that you care about them. Her internal journey in this novel is especially moving because you can see her growing up through these challenges. For this reason, I find it hard to believe that the first book could be better than this sequel. Now, I've seen a lot of people not liking Oliver online in other reviews and what have you, but you know, I thought he was great. Sure, he's painted in a poor light because of some things going on in his life and the whole blackmailing debacle, but I think if you just stick it out with him, you'll come along. I could really sympathize with him and thought he was a great character. Well written, too! The one who really drove me to throw the book across the room was Keith. I didn't read the first book, but I would think that any allegiance to this horrid man would only be lingering from that story. As for this story, HE WAS A JERK. A big, giant jerk. He was rude and mean, and I hated him more than any other character. I hope Maureen meant it to be that way because "great job" to her to create that tension. I could go on, but I think I've hit all the main characters that evoke and conjure emotions in me. 

And finally, the writing of Johnson is just fantastic. I already mentioned that she's phenomenal, but her words make the imagery and characters in the story so vivid and bright that you really don't want to part from it after so long (even when Keith is in it). You could just tell that she had been to all those places (or else she sold it REALLY well). For her to transfer that kind of detail and imagery onto the page... kudos to Maureen ("Kudos... that's my word for the day." From which movie does it originate?!). As is key in any YA novel, the voice is necessary on which to comment. Personally, I thought she hit it spot on. I hate it when authors try to over extend the vocabulary of their characters' age range. I could name a few authors, but "Mmmm... betta not."

Also, I needed to share that I recently read the Mortal Instruments series because the movie's coming out in August, and Cassandra Clare is friends with Maureen, who has a character named after her in the series. It's an interesting tidbit if you've read it.

Regardless, my verdict is as stands:

The Last Little Blue Envelope proves Maureen Johnson a star in the YA world. For international fun, blackmailing, and looking past the preconceived notions that you have of yourself and others, this is the way to go.

'Til next time!

1 comment:

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