Janie Face to Face by Caroline Cooney Book Review

Janie Face to Face by Caroline Cooney

Originally published in 1990, The Face On the Milk Carton was a thriller that asked, what would you do if you saw your face on a missing persons poster? What if your parents were kidnappers? At 15, Janie Johnson sees her face on a milk carton during lunch and from then on her life is thrown upside down. She is really Jennie Spring, kidnapped from a mall when she was three by a woman named Hannah Javenson. Her parents, Hannah's parents, thought Janie was their granddaughter and raised her as their own. After reuniting with her biological family, Janie really struggles with this idea of who she is and who she can love. The series continued on for three more books, detailing Janie's struggles to be a part of both the Spring's and Johnson's lives and finding enough love to go around.

Now, in the fifth and final book, Janie Johnson is 20 years old. A true-crime writer has been tracking down her family members and Janie isn't sure who she is anymore. Janie? Jane? Jennie? And what about that kidnapper, Hannah, what has she been up to all these years?

Caroline Cooney, despite not intending for this to ever be a series has finally finished the story of Janie Johnson. For all the female fans, this is a book chock full of romance and weddings and forgiveness and everything girly. It begins a little slow, but is soon running along at a good speed.

Although I absolutely love having this final chapter in Janie's life, there were some problems. The first being simply that the first book was written 23 years ago, however in the story only five years have passed. Instead of making her book dated and setting it in 1995, Cooney chooses to ignore when the first book was written and pretend that the first story took place in 2008. Now, Janie has a cell phone, computer, and Skype. It was a little strange.

The book is also told through multiple viewpoints. Throughout the story we get the viewpoints of almost every single character in the story. Janie, her brothers, her sister, mother, father, Miranda, Hannah. Come to think of it, the only viewpoint we didn't get was Frank, her adoptive father who had a stroke. The constant jumping from person to person could be jolting sometimes, especially if you went from a sympathetic character (Sarah-Charlotte, Reeve) to the more douchebag (Stephen, Jodie) ones. Although, I think the intention was for us to see how some of these characters are growing up, some of the characters like Jodie and Stephen did little to redeem themselves.

Perhaps the most interesting character in the whole story was really Hannah, the kidnapper. We get to see into her twisted and mentally ill mind and makes for some interesting, although eventually annoying, perspective.

In the end, looking back over the life of the story, I always found this series to be entertaining and a fun what if. However, I also know that there is no one today who would take a 15-year-old girl from parents who were loving and were not in fact the kidnappers and force her to move back to her biological family who she does not remember without some counseling, a lot of meetings, and much transition time. Honestly, if this had happened, Janie would not have been struggling so much in this final book.