Her beloved Aunt Peg was an artist and the most interesting person Ginny knew. And what's more, she had the ability to make plain, ordinary Ginny's plain, ordinary life seem interesting, too. When they spent time together, life abounded with limitless possibilities. They played imaginary travel games, exploring countries by visiting art galleries, restaurants and museums.
But then her aunt suddenly took off for Europe, leaving Ginny and her family without a word for months on end, and then, before they even saw her again, came the news that Aunt Peg had died.
Ginny is experiencing a kaleidoscope of emotions: anger with her aunt about leaving so abruptly, sadness at losing her, disbelief that such a thing could have happened at all. Then she receives a letter from her aunt, written when she realized she would not be seeing Ginny again, along with $1000 in cash. Her aunt invites her to play one last travel game, only this one won’t be imaginary – she is to book a one-way ticket to London. Further instructions will follow.
Exactly where she’s going, Ginny doesn’t know. She is to follow the rules of the game, which include no guidebooks, no extra money beyond what her aunt will provide, and no electronic crutches (no laptop, no cell phone, no iPod, etc.). Instead of a map or guidebook, Aunt Peg has given Ginny thirteen little blue envelopes. She can only open one at a time, and she must follow the instructions completely before she can open the next one. Ginny embarks on an adventure that will lead her through Europe, opening one envelope after the next, trying to understand exactly what it is that her aunt is trying to teach her as she goes.
Ginny's adventures make for fun reading, with action, romance, and the solving of little mysteries about her aunt every stop of the way. Following Aunt Peg's bizarre instructions, Ginny finds herself learning things in a way she never would have if she were traveling in a more conventional way. My only issue was that I found it hard to believe that the parents of a 17-year-old would allow their daughter to travel alone to Europe with no cell phone, no way of knowing where she was or how to contact her. But although those thoughts were in the back of my mind as I read, I still enjoyed traveling along on Ginny's voyage of discovery.
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (HarperTeen, 2006)