YA REVIEW: The Last Little Blue Envelope

Recommended

The Last Little Blue Envelope picks up where its precursor, 13 Little Blue Envelopes left off.  Ginny receives a peculiar email from a boy named Oliver who has found the backpack Ginny lost on her trip across Europe.  This backpack contained the thirteenth envelope left to her by her deceased aunt.  Each of the thirteen envelopes had contained a task for Ginny as she traveled.  She had resigned herself to the fact that she would never know what task the last envelope held, but now she has a second chance.

Upon arriving in England, Ginny discovers that her love interest, Keith, now has a new love interest.  He and his girlfriend decide they must help Ginny complete the last task.  Oliver has also decided that he will hold the envelope as ransom in return for him coming on the trip, and Ginny sharing the profits from the sale of her aunt’s art that she must retrieve as part of her task.

After overcoming a number of roadblocks, Ginny accomplishes her final task.  All the while, she discovers that Oliver might be more charming than she originally thought.

The Last Little Blue Envelope is filled with adventure, whimsy, and humour from beginning to end.  It is a fast-paced story that keeps the reader engaged and needing to find out what will happen next.  The characters are realistic, and truly develop and mature throughout the story.  Ginny fully embodies the “everygirl” character.  This book goes beyond the touristy feel of the first book, and it provides a complete resolution to Ginny’s adventure.

That being said, there are no big surprises in this story, and it is predictable at times.

This book is a great pick for those who read the 13 Little Blue Envelopes and were left wanting more.

 

Johnson, Maureen.  The Last Little Blue Envelope.  New York: Harper Teen, 2011.

Thoughts on The Outsiders

I have to say, I was really excited to read The Outsiders because I had heard so many people rave about it.

To be honest, it didn’t really grab my attention at first.  I was actually about three-quarters of the way through the story before I got to the point where I felt like I had to keep reading.  I think I was expecting to make a connection with PonyBoy, but it just didn’t happen.

The one thing I did particularly like about the story was its circular nature.  I enjoyed how the story started and ended with the exact same sentence.  It somehow felt like it wrapped everything up neatly.  There was something poetic about it.

In short, I didn’t dislike the entire book.  As I said, as I neared the end, it was much more engaging.  I thought perhaps the book began almost too early in PonyBoy’s story, although I can see how some parts of it were important to build up the story.

That being said, I would probably read the story again just to see if my opinion of it changes at all.

Experiencing Fantasy Through Seraphina

I admit it — I’m not a fantasy reader.  Yes, I read the entire Harry Potter series and enjoyed it, but I never felt the need to pick up another story about magic and mythical creatures after that.  Who knows, maybe I’m just all dragon-storied-out since grade 4 when we did our Medieval Times unit.

So then came fantasy week in class.  I chose Seraphina because it was the easiest to find at the book store (it was part of a display), and the cover looked prettier than the one for Sabriel.  (Yes, I judged a book by its cover.)

It was hard to get into at first.  It felt slow as it put so much detail into building the story when I just wanted it to get to the point.  There was also a number of invented names and terms that I didn’t understand and either had to interrupt my reading to consult the glossary, or just not care and try to figure it out as I read.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit of an impatient reader.

My thoughts: I actually enjoyed this story.  It was well-written, and in the end, worth all of the endless description.  Once I got into the flow of the story, it became easier to read and I started to get into it.

I’m still not sure if it has made a fantasy reader out of me, but I think I’m more open to giving it a try if somebody gave me a good recommendation.

Fairy Tales and Ash

Ash was a great retelling of the Cinderella story.  It remained so true to the original story that it was easily recognizable as an adaptation.  At the same time, it was a completely different story, and the incorporation of fairy tales within the story almost spoke of a self-awareness of its own fairy tale nature.

This version felt so empowering.  It wasn’t all about marriage and snagging the rich guy.  Instead, it is about a girl who has her own beliefs in the supernatural and fairy tales.  She has a sense of independence and an inability to follow the path that others dictate for her.

Her love interest, Kaisa, is the King’s Huntress.  She is empowered, confident, well-respected, and admired by everyone.  She, too, has her own interests in fairy tales and alludes to her own beliefs in the supernatural.

This story is not so much about finding love as it is about learning about different kinds love.  Throughout the story, Ash loses love through the loss of both of her parents at a young age, but she remains devoted to honouring their memories.  She experiences lack of love from her step-mother and step-sister, but finds a distant fondness with her youngest step-sister.  She discovers unrequited love when a dark fairy becomes infatuated with her, but she knows she could never love him.  However, she uses this power of love to convince him to set her free from her debt to him.  And finally, she learns true love from her budding relationship with Kaisa.

Ash is a completely new twist on fairy tales, and despite its historical setting, it is completely modernized for today’s audience.  Ash does not just accept what is given to her.  Instead, she takes control and goes after what she wants with a little help from her friends.

Thoughts on After the Snow

I am going to start by being completely honest: reading After the Snow was a challenge for me.

To begin with, the dialect the story is written in took a long time to get used to.  The first 50 pages or so were agonizing and time-consuming to read until I got a feel for the speech.  Eventually I did get used to it, and it was much easier to read from there.

However, I feel like nothing really happened in this story.  It was so slow moving.  Perhaps I am just used to reading dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories that have more earth-shattering events take place.  In this instance, not even the climax was particularly attention grabbing.

Additionally, the main character, Willo, is supposedly 15 years old, but he comes across as being much younger, which I just found annoying at times.

As a dystopia/post-apocalyptic story, I would say that it stays true to a number of themes characteristic of this genre.  The story takes place in an ice age that has taken over Europe.  Willo’s family, which is missing from the beginning of the story, lives on the outskirts of society as “stragglers” in the forest.  Throughout the course of the story, Willo tries to find his family.  He quickly discovers that there are very few people he can trust and that society is corrupt.  He cannot survive in the forest on his own, but he is not safe in the city either without papers.

As is characteristic of YA dystopias, After the Snow ends on a note of hope, although I question how hopeful this ending is.  Willo is certainly filled with hope and feels confident in himself, but his friend Mary doesn’t seem so sure.  So much of the story was built up around the boat being the certain way to salvation.  In the end, I felt more cautious than hopeful.

Overall, once I got over the redneck-ish dialect, I began to see how well-written the story actually is.  The story stays true to the dystopian themes.  I just wish there had been more action, or at least more attention-grabbing events.

The Experience of Reading Two Boys Kissing

My only prior experience in reading David Levithan’s work is Will Grayson, Will Grayson, which was co-written with John Green.  When I read the description on the book jacket, I expected a similar format in which the perspectives switch back and forth for each chapter.  However, Two Boys Kissing was a completely different experience.

First of all, there are no chapters.  It is just one continuous, ongoing story.  Second, and more importantly, the perspectives are constantly switching.  For this reason, I found it difficult to get used to reading this book.  It was rather disorienting at first to keep track of all the characters as the narrative progressed from one character to another.  Nonetheless, eventually I did get into the rhythm of the story and was then able to form a relationship with the characters.

Although I will never be able to fully relate to the experience of the young men in this story, Levithan provided insight into a range of perspectives and relationships.  He dealt head on with issues of homophobia, family conflict, and conflict with the self.  He looks at healthy relationships, complicated relationships, and newly blossoming relationships.

As a whole, I felt myself connecting most to the extremely omniscient narrator(s).  The narrator is intended to be a chorus of gay men who have lost their lives to AIDS.  This is never overtly stated, but is heavily implied.  This group of men wanted to be role models to the next generation of gay youth, but lost their lives too soon.  Instead, they will these young men to keep going from the other side.  They watch over them, but they cannot interfere.  As a reader, I felt a similar experience in which I was constantly cheering the young men on, encouraging them through the difficult parts, hoping they find what makes them happy.  However, as a reader, I had no control over the story and could not make it unfold the way I wanted.  I just had to hope for the best.

Reading Golden Boy

This week I read Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan.

I was a little hesitant to begin reading this book because I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to connect with the protagonist in the same way I tend to with a protagonist from a Western culture.  However, I soon found this was not the case.  Habo, the protagonist, was relatively easy to connect with because he was easy to sympathize with.  Not only was Habo different from myself, he was different from his own culture due to his albinism.  Until Habo moved to Der es Salaam, he had no idea that there were people in the world just like him and that his difference wasn’t a curse.  His fear and loneliness was something I was able to connect with on my own level.

At the same time that I was sympathizing with Habo for being alienated, I felt alienated myself.  The integration of the Kiswahili language definitely added to the feeling of the story, but it was distancing in a way.  I did not know what the words meant, so I had to start using the context of the sentences to make sense of them.  While this was somewhat easy to do after awhile, it interrupted my reading experience at times.  This kept calling my attention back to the difference between me and Habo.

Despite my hesitations, I felt that this was a positive reading experience.  I think part of the essence of this story is to call attention to difference, and that difference is part of the human experience.  I believe this book accomplished that.