Okay, I'm a bit late discovering the books of delightfully snarky Maureen Johnson (but I've followed her on Twitter for some time thanks to Libba Bray and MJ's strong stance against banning books, does that count?) After reading 13 Little Blue Envelopes (2005, Harper Collins), I plan to be a fan for quite some time.
For grades 8 and up, the story of 17-year-old Ginny Blackstone is the perfect summer read: especially for those of us who would love to tour Europe but are shackled to home thanks to the big bad recession.
So, three years ago, Ginny's Aunt Peg up and left for Europe. Sure, there was the occasional postcard, but mainly, she was off being the flaky artist that Ginny had always known her to be. Then Ginny learns her runaway aunt has died of a brain tumor, leaving her favorite niece 13 little blue envelopes. The first one contains $1,000 and a set of rules that include Ginny's packing a bag and hopping a flight to London. She is only to open one envelope at a time, and never without fulfilling the instructions of its predecessor. Ginny, being the rule-follower that she is, goes along with it.
So off she goes, traveling through Europe, following the same path Aunt Peg took as she discovered herself, her art, and the illness that would eventually claim her. Ginny makes a few friends, learns a lot about both herself and her aunt, and experiences the kinds of things only a teenager backpacking through Europe with a ATM card and a passport can experience (read: boys).
Johnson's writing style is light and totally sucks you in, with descriptions of Rome, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Greece that are a vacation in themselves. (How I envy the author her research trip!!)
Other books (including Suite Scarlette, Devilish and the Bermudez Triangle) are now on my radar and will be voraciously consumed as soon as they are in my grasp. 4 bookmarks as I look forward to more.