Friday, 6 May 2011

Review: The Last Little Blue Envelope

WARNING: The following review includes spoilers for 13 Little Blue Envelopes and The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Last Little Blue Envelope

Author: Maureen Johnson

Published by: Harper Teen

When last we met Ginny Blackstone - at the end of 13 Little Blue Envelopes - she had just made more than a hundred thousand pounds selling her Aunt Peg’s artwork, and was heading back to America , never discovering the contents of the last envelope.

Well now, as Maureen Johnson finally returns to Ginny, it’s time to find out exactly what the last clue said.

Feeling lost, bored and alone at home in America, Ginny receives an email which will change her life (once again) forever. A young man called Oliver has found the last envelope. There are more instructions, and they must search out a second piece of art, bringing Keith – and his new girlfriend Ellis – along for the ride.

From the very start the reader is plunged right back into the adventure that the first novel held within it, and with the almost immediate twist that Keith is suddenly quite so entirely with Ginny as you’d expect, the entire dynamic of this book evolves from its predecessor.

In the void we find Oliver. A smart, but seemingly malevolent man, who you want to dislike, and yet (as Ginny herself finds as the book goes on) you simply struggle to do so. He never actually lies to her, and while his motives remain unclear for the most part, it is clear Ginny is never actually in any danger around him.

Most interesting is the continued interaction between Ginny and the envelopes themselves, and through them with her Aunt Peg. In a crucial scene towards the end of the novel, you truly feel like Peg is stood beside Ginny, and that they have shared this wild adventure together.

Maureen Johnson proves once again - as is so often the case with the best YA writers – that just because this novel will be found in the YA section of your local book store, it can deal with some properly adult themes. The way the novel deals with death, and with Peg’s cancer stricken and deluded sense of being towards the end of her life, is to be commended.

At the same time it should be said that while this book is marketed primarily at a female market , this book (unlike its predecessor which played up the romance), feels much more like an adventure novel than a piece of “chick-lit” (a phrase I rather abhor anyway as a male who enjoys this kind of book).

LLBE should genuinely appeal to anyone who enjoys fun, well written characters and witty and at times even zany situations (when you read about the Cat Palace you’ll understand what I mean by zany).

While this is – seemingly – the end of Ginny’s story, I for one cannot wait to see what Johnson has in store for her readers next. If she can make me care even half this much about her next collection of characters, she’ll be doing astoundingly well.

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