Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

Summary (from Goodreads):
Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt Peg laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny's backpack—and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end.

Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he's found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure—one filled with old friends, new loves, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ginny finds she must hold on to her wits . . . and her heart. This time, there are no instructions.
I absolutely loved the first book. There’s just something kind of magical about a coming of age story about a girl traveling Europe, figuring out clues from her much loved –already deceased aunt, searching for mysterious artwork, and falling in love. Seriously, this book was a recipe for wonderful. It had such an epic ending as well. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a cliffhanger ending from a contemporary YA book ever. It was rather genius.
(I’m about to spoil book 1)
The first book ends with Ginny on the beach in Greece, enjoying a swim before bringing herself to reading the last letter from her aunt. The previous twelve letters have taken her literally across Europe, and can you blame a girl for not wanting the letters, the mystery, and her aunt to really end?
Too bad for Ginny though because her bag is stolen and with it all of the letters, including the last one, which she has yet to read! She has to fly back home to America, knowing that there will forever be a letter out there from her aunt that she has never read. This book begins with an email from someone in England who has found her bag (and letters).
Oliver, the boy who has sent the email, is only willing to give Ginny pieces of the letter at a time though because he wants to go with her on her last adventures and then get a piece of the profit at the end. He knows that the last letter will take Ginny to three more places, require her to put together three different pieces of art, and then auction the piece off. And he wants half of the money.
Ginny sees Keith (love interest from first book) immediately upon coming to England and fills him in on what is happening. Unfortunately, Keith has a new girlfriend. And a lot of the adventures in this book coincide with Ginny needing to get over Keith, and actually befriending his new girlfriend.  The four of them go to Paris, to Amsterdam, to Ireland, and then back to England. Along the way Ginny receives tidbits from the last letter, creates her own art, says goodbye to her aunt, recovers from a broken heart, and truly learns to see beauty in everything. There’s also the beginning of something new with a new boy, so Ginny wasn’t completely lonely.
The story was just as compelling as the first one. It was, if anything, slightly more suspenseful because Ginny was only getting pieces of the last letter at a time. And I loved that the last letter was so big, so important. It was kind of like in Harry Potter when you realize that on top of the 7 horcruxes, there’s also 3 deathly hallows that should probably be found. Ginny’s deathly hallows introduce her to more artist culture, allow her to play tourist again, and help her come to terms with what exactly it is that she wants.
I loved the characters. Keith kind of became a bit mean. However, all of his witty British humor was still there. And all of his flaws made him more realistic to me. I actually loved Keith’s new girlfriend, and I loved that Ginny was willing to accept her. I also adored Oliver (the boy with the email and the slight blackmailing). The way he took all of Keith’s bullying was just so noble and kind. And watching the four of them travel together, get drunk on New Years together, and fight it out together (even in the seriously award moments) was just so amazing.
And just like with the first book, the pages were layered with independence, with tough life questions, with grief, with love, and with living. Ginny is a slightly different person. She’s not the na├»ve, scared American tourist from book 1. She’s a little darker, a little more sarcastic, and a little more confident. I loved that there were things more important than money for her. And I loved how seriously she took the words from her aunt’s letters. Her aunt told her to picture a painting in NYC, and she would pause in her letter and think until she had the painting remembered just right, before continuing with her reading.
Ginny is also braver. She wants to see what the drug-ridden cafes of Amsterdam are like. She pushes herself forward at the site where her aunt’s ashes have been spread. She instigates a kiss at New Years, in Dublin. And she fights every step of the way for what she wants, even when she doesn’t know what that is.
I loved this book, possibly more than the first one. It’s all about how adventures never need to be over. Nothing stays the same forever. And no matter how scary change is, it has so many possibilities for greatness. I wish there were more books for me to catch up on Ginny’s life, but I also wish for no more books about her. I kind of loved the ending (again). I could always read more of Ginny, more of this great story, but I love how it ended. I give it a 10/10.

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