Backpacking through Europe with only 4 Rules

Reading level: Young Adult

Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: HarperTeen (August 23, 2005)

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson was such a joyful experience. It’s been on my TBR list forever, and I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner. It’s definitely a YA must-read.

The premise is pretty awesome.Ginny Blackstone at seventeen hasn’t done anything of consequence or gone anywhere exciting… that is, until she embarks on a journey throughout Europe following instructions left to her in letters by her deceased aunt. It’s like a soul-finding scavenger hunt that satisfies wanderlust.
There are four rules she must follow:

Rule #1: You may bring only what fits in
your backpack. Don’t try to fake it out 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.

This book was a travel experience. I could smell the places Ginny visited; it was as if I was there. It will bring back memories of your own travels, or give you an idea of what yours could be like.

I also found it easy to relate to Ginny, who is shy, yet earnest in everything she does. It’s a lot for a seventeen year old, trying to deal with the death of her aunt and at the same time navigating in unfamiliar lands. It’s really an educational experience, learning more about her aunt and even herself. I find it admirable that she has complete faith in her aunt’s instructions. I mean look at those rules, they don’t even seem safe.

Last summer was my first time ever leaving the country and I prayed like a million times that Eyjafjallajokull would not erupt while I was on my plane. Also I heard people die near their birthdays and mine was looming near. You can image the nervous wreck I was and I wasn’t even going alone.

I mean can you imagine going by yourself at seventeen, your only directions and support from letters opened one at a time? I had a hard enough time asking people where the laundrette was. Yet Ginny was strong and practical doing some things that were well beyond her comfort level.

13 Little Blue Envelopes is suspenseful because the reader is roughing it with Ginny, and we are just as curious about the next letter. Of course not everything runs smoothly or according to plan, but in the end it’s all about the experience, right? My niece is practically one of my best friends so it was easy to imagine her doing these things. I only wish I could be as epic as aunt Peg was for Ginny.

Hey, it’s also a good time to read it as the sequel was recently released.

I’m up for another journey.

While we’re at it, any interesting travel tales?

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