Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Final Book In Series

The final book in Caroline Cooney's Janie Johnson series, Janie Face to Face, wraps up the storyline that began with The Face on the Milk Carton (a book that's now twenty years old!). Set five years in the future after Janie discovers that her parents aren't really her parents, and that she was kidnapped as a toddler, Janie's now going to college and attempting to leave behind all the turmoil that came with the media sensation. After Reeve's betrayal in The Voice on the Radio, Janie's trust issues no longer allow her to see him romantically, but her relationship with her birth family has improved to the point that Janie sees herself as a Spring. Still, she's torn between the Springs and the Johnsons, and still unsure of her place. Is it any wonder that she allows a good looking young man into her life, even though her friends are skeptical of him? There seems to be something off in his attentions, and as the story progresses, more clues to something devious start to come to light. It looks like Janie's life is about to get more complicated.

Meanwhile, we get glimpses into the mind/psyche of Janie's kidnapper, Hannah Javenson, who has been living in Colorado for years, subsisting on menial jobs and blaming her parents, society, and Janie for everything that went wrong with her life. Hannah, now in her late forties/early fifties, has never amounted to anything; she's stolen identities, money, and things in her sad existence. As she ages, she begins to find ways to spy on Janie and her now elderly parents and fixates on the idea that Janie somehow stole the life Hannah should have had (even though we experience the kidnapping from Hannah's point of view early on in this book). She decides the time has come to "fix" things, and in her delusional mind, she plots revenge.

I liked this final installment, finding it entirely believable in lots of ways, even down to the....


...impromptu reunion of Janie and Reeve. I could see how Janie would need Reeve as a bit of stability in her life, and I felt that even the rather rushed wedding would come off. I liked the movement between various characters' points of view, even the annoying Kathleen (who ended up adding a good deal to the overall story, despite her neediness). I loved how Janie's siblings accepted her even though they were alternately happy and irritated by her behavior. I also loved that Janie still felt loyalty and love for the Johnsons who raised her, and that there was recognition that they were blameless in such a mess. There are also attempts by Cooney to pull the timeline of the original story forward so that this installment wouldn't find Janie in her mid-thirties (for example, the explanation of no cell phones earlier, the appearance of the phone booth Janie and Reeve used, and the way Janie just ignores social media and has for a long time). If there were a few issues, such as the convenience of having the FBI on speed dial, Reeve's undying devotion, and Hannah's ability to act upon her delusions, I could overlook it because Cooney's writing is very engaging and the pages just flew by. Janie comes across as normal as a girl could be in such an awful situation, and the glimpses of others' thoughts and actions filled out the story. This is a fitting conclusion to a series that could actually have happened. Not perfect, but still good.


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