Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Last Little Blue Envelope

By Maureen Johnson

Release Date: April 26th, 2011*

Two Things I Liked About The Last Little Blue Envelope:
1. Rainy New Year’s in Dublin.
2. English uncle.

Another sequel review, I’m afraid. I’m in the mood to keep it short and sweet, though. So bear with me.

The Last Little Blue Envelope is the sequel to 13 Little Blue Envelopes, which came out several years ago. Ginny’s aunt Peg, an eccentric artist, traipsed off to Europe two years ago, and hadn’t been heard from since. That is, until a letter arrives unannounced from the recently deceased Peg, informing Ginny of her secret battle with brain cancer and her final wish that Ginny follow the instructions in the 13 envelopes enclosed with the letter, as well as a few rules: no cell phone, laptop, company, or plan. Never one for adventure, Ginny nonetheless embarks on a European tour directed by clues in the 13 envelopes. The letters lead her from England to Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, and Greece, and help Ginny forge a farewell connection with her beloved aunt as the letters paint a picture of Peg’s final years and introduce Ginny to many of Peg’s friends and loved ones scattered across the continent. Unfortunately, Ginny’s backpack gets stolen in Greece before she can read the last letter, and so her trip comes to a premature end. But before she goes home, she stops off in London to discover and sell a collection of her aunt’s paintings left behind as Ginny’s inheritance.

The Last Little Blue Envelope picks up a few months after 13 Little Blue Envelopes. It’s December of Ginny’s senior year, and she’s wondering how to turn her summer experiences into a college essay, why her summer romantic interest – Keith, a harmless bad-boy poseur artiste she met in London – isn’t communicating as much as he used to, and what ever happened to her 13th letter and her key to closure. A couple weeks before Christmas break, she gets an email from someone in England, informing her that they have her letter and want to meet up with her. So, on a whim, she flies to London to spend the holidays with her British uncle (who married Peg before she died) – only to be faced with a couple of back-to-back setbacks: 1] Her romantic interest has a new romantic interest, and 2] Oliver, the devastatingly handsome bearer of her letter, isn’t about to just hand it over. The letter contains instructions to obtain the parts to a final piece of Peg’s art for Ginny to sell, and Oliver wants a finder’s fee of half the proceeds. Instead of spending the holidays cuddled up with Keith with mugs of tea in front of a cozy English fireplace (or something), Ginny finds herself crammed into the backseat of Keith’s dilapidated automobile with Keith, his new girlfriend, and Oliver, driving across Europe to complete Peg’s final project.

The Last Little Blue Envelope wasn’t terrible, and it had its moments – I especially got a kick out of a scene where Keith’s girlfriend, used to driving on the opposite side of the road, has to navigate the infamous Arc du Triumph traffic circle – but overall it had that stale sequel aesthetic, as if perhaps Maureen spent a little too much time away from the characters before going back to tie up the loose ends from the first novel. Oliver’s bad boy standoffishness as a mask for financial and emotional insecurity was a little too predictable, as was Ginny’s transition of romantic interest from one bad-boy to another, without enough swoon-factor to compensate, and the story in general was a little too much more of the same of the first 12 letters. Maureen said she only decided to write this sequel after getting a multitude of requests for one, and it shows – The Last Little Blue Envelope reads like an afterthought, not a planned finale.

Books Read This Year: 34
Top 100 Progress: 42/100

* I received an advance copy of The Last Little Blue Envelope through

1 comment:

  1. I finished last little blue envelope 2 days ago!
    I also liked the New year in Dublin