The Last Little BLue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

last-little-blueCindy: While Lynn is booking a real trip to Europe this summer, I have to pacify myself with a virtual trip through The Last Little Blue Envelope (HarperTeen 2011).  Those of you who followed Ginny’s European scavenger hunt in the first book, Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, will remember that her backpack was stolen in Greece before she could open the last envelope.  This sequel follows a few months later, just before the Christmas holidays of Ginny’s senior year of high school, when Ginny is contacted by a boy in London who says he has the backpack and the last letter. Ginny hightails it to her uncle’s flat in London to spend the holidays with him and to complete her scavenger hunt. This journey takes her and her “friends” to London, Paris, Amsterdam, and finally Dublin for New Years all the while in search of pieces of a painting that she will have to assemble.

Maureen’s characters all feel like real people to me (even when they are behaving a bit over the top) and her dialogue is superb. Ginny’s emotional roller coaster is convincing and the humor and romance are back in spades. I have a whole group of teen girls at school who want to take the 13 Little Blue Envelope European Tour and now, we have more places to add to our itinerary…fingers crossed for another sequel…I have room for more stickers on my luggage!

Oh, and don’t underestimate the breadth of appeal for these titles. The first one has been very popular in my middle school libraries but high school is probably the best age for it.  And yet, it was a college freshman who squealed the loudest when she heard there was a new sequel…so the love is all over the map–so to speak.

Lynn: I liked 13 Little Blue Envelopes a lot but I have to say that while I was looking forward to the sequel I was happy to let Cindy have it first.  I was sure I’d like the book but I admit to expecting just a nice continuation of the original story.  I really should have known not to underestimate Maureen Johnson.  This is no ordinary sequel.   Just as I was settling into what I thought was going to be a sweet comfortable story, Johnson sprang the first in a series of really original plot twists on me.  Johnson took every expectation I had and turned it upside down.  Wow!  That will teach me to have smug expectations!

All the trademarks of Johnson’s wonderful writing are here – fluid prose, sassy smart dialog and really memorable characters.  Add the lure of European travel and an intriguing romantic tangle to this highly original surprise-packed plot and you’ve got a winner.  If teens were dreaming of travel after reading the first book, they will be packing their suitcases and buying tickets after this one!

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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