Today in YA History: August 23, 2005 – ’13 Little Blue Envelopes’ published!

August 23, 2005: HarperTeen publishes Maureen Johnson’s 13 Little Blue Envelopes, about a teenager journeying throughout Europe by following letters left by her deceased aunt.

From Wikipedia:

  • Rule #1: You may bring only what fits in your backpack. Don’t try to fake it with a purse or a carry-on.
  • Rule #2: You may not bring guidebooks, phrase books, or any kind of foreign language aid. And no journals.
  • Rule #3: You cannot bring extra money or credit/debit cards, traveler’s checks, etc. I’ll take care of all that.
  • Rule #4: No electronic crutches. This means no laptop, no cell phone, no music, and no camera. You can’t call home or communicate with people in the U.S. by Internet or telephone. Postcards and letters are acceptable and encouraged.
  • “Ginny Blackstone, a seventeen-year-old girl, has received 13 envelopes from her self-proclaimed “Runaway Aunt” Peg, who is deceased. Ginny is told that she is about to leave for several weeks and will travel to foreign lands. Her aunt leaves her the above four rules to follow. She is only allowed to open the next envelope once she has reached the destination or, in some cases, achieved the task set in the previous letter.”

    Ginny travels all over Europe in her aunt-given quest, from London, to Paris, to Amsterdam, to Denmark, to Greece. As she goes, she learns more not only about her eccentric, artistic aunt… but also about who she is.

    From Olivia: I read this book while I was a Borders employee. The title drew me in. As a Haunt and Halloween person, I have a thing for “13”, so I also read Jay Asher’s “13 Reasons Why” for this same, silly reason! The aspect of travel in Europe hooked me. And Aunt Peg’s letters were the part I was most eager to see resolved. Another part of this story that I absolutely loved was that Ginny needed to avoid the clutter of daily life for her trip, and couldn’t be texting away or calling people constantly. It sends her to a simpler time, a time of more personal connections too.

    This forced lack of tech sets the book firmly in the “now”, but that means that the idea for this book could have started in an age void of so much technology. Ms. Johnson finds a clever way to deal with what is a big problem for many stories set in the modern era. After all, today we can just pop online to look up information, or send a facebook message to your best friend when we’ve made them upset, or tweet about the psycho-killer at the lake. :)

    You may have heard there is a sequel, which there is. I have not read it, as it was not out when I first finished 13LBE. It seems to promise the resolution I was most interested in. I leave it up to you to decide if this one on its own satisfies you… for me, I was really missing the total resolution and am VERY much anticipating reading the next book. But I was definitely intrigued so much when I finished this book that I hunted down all sorts of information on it.

    Be sure to check this one out at your local Independent bookstore!


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