The fifth and final installment of Janie Johnson's story brings the series that started more than two decades ago with The Face on the Milk Carton to a highly gratifying close. Janie-who in high school discovered that the family that raised her was not the one she was born to-is now in college, keeping her complicated past to herself to make a fresh start in New York City. When a true-crime author wants to use Janie as the subject of his next book, a complex chain of events propels her back into the arms of her onetime boyfriend, Reeve. Meanwhile, Janie's long-ago kidnapper, Hannah, embarks on a vengeful quest. Quick, short scenes and plenty of crosscutting between numerous characters' points of view keep the story moving with breathless momentum. Cooney generates a compassionate and thorough sense of closure by interweaving brief updates on nearly every individual-teenager or adult-that has appeared in the series. Though there's never much doubt that Janie, Reeve, and Hannah will end up where they ought to be, it's a treat to watch them get there. Ages 12-up.
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VOYA - Margaret Capobianco
Fans of Janie Johnson will not be disappointed in this fifth and final installment of the series that began with the riveting The Face On The Milk Carton (Delacorte, 1996). When we meet Janie again in this new novel, she is embarking on a college career with the hopes of putting the events of the past few years behind her and growing into a strong, independent, young woman. She is juggling being a good daughter to both her biological parents and the parents who raised herwho were unaware that Janie had been kidnapped from a shopping mall by their daughter. Familiar characters from Janie's past, including Reeve, are reintroduced, and these relationships take on new dimensions in a realistic fashion, the way high school friendships develop. In this book, the author spends a great deal of time on the mindset of Hannah, the kidnapper who stole Janie away from a shopping mall when she was three years old. These chapters are told from the kidnapper's perspective and weave an interesting perspective into the story. We finally get a glimpse into the demented mind of the kidnapper whose actions wreaked havoc on so many lives. This last installment of the compelling series provides a satisfying ending to a novel that has become part of the curriculum of many high school reading lists. Cooney has developed Janie's character into a strong young woman who is able to bravely face her past horrors. This novel will appeal to fans of the original book and is also a good read for younger teens who might be interested in the subject matter. Reviewer: Margaret Capobianco
Over two decades after the Janie series began with The Face on the Milk Carton (1990), Cooney concludes the thriller-romance saga of kidnapped Janie Johnson. Janie, having balanced living with both her "real" family and her kidnap family, looks forward to the anonymity of college, only to discover that a true-crime writer wants to revive the ordeal in a book. Although her heart is still with Reeve, the boy next door who betrayed her, she begins to date Michael--who is actually stalking her as a researcher for the crime writer. Dumping Michael, she falls back into Reeve's waiting arms. In a romantic proposal scene at the airport, they decide to marry immediately. With much rehashing of back story and Janie's endless wrestling over which boy she loves, the pace drags until the heart-pounding final pages. Janie, for all she has been through, is shallow and saccharine--a throwback to decades ago. Janie's wedding plans and multiple professions of faith in God give the book an explicit Catholic tone. Kidnapper Hannah Javensen's character, expressed in the interspersed chapters that explore her mental instability, has more psychological depth. Fans who have wondered whether Reeve and Janie's love endures and whether the kidnapper is caught will want this final piece of the puzzle. (Fiction. 12-17)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, February 18, 2013:
“The fifth and final installment of Janie Johnson's story brings the series that started more than two decades ago with The Face on the Milk Carton to a highly gratifying close.”
Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
The first time readers met Janie Johnson, she was living a wonderful life as a Connecticut teen. But when she recognized herself as the face on a milk carton, her surprisingly fictitious life unraveled, leaving her at a loss for her own identity. Four books later, Janie is coming to grips with her life, finding places in her heart for the parents who raised herFrank and Miranda Johnsonand the Spring family who never gave up hope that they would once again find their stolen daughter/sister. Now a sophomore in college, Janiereally named Jenniefinds herself still the focus of unwelcome attention. This time, it comes from a "true crime" writer who has people stalking her. The story is told from many points of view, including that of Hannah, the unstable woman who originally kidnapped Jennie from a New Jersey mall. Hannah is the Johnsons' estranged daughter, which is how they had received five-year-old Jennie. In the time between the first book and this book, Janie has had many changes in her life, including breaking up with her longtime friend and boyfriend, Reeve. But when the chips are down, he is the one she turns to. After many twists and upheavals, Jennie and Reeve get married to, presumably, live happily ever after. The book is a compelling read and could be used in the classroom as a springboard for discussions about safety, trust, and self-awareness. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—This fifth entry in the saga ties up many loose ends. Janie, now a college student, is conflicted about her ties to both her birth family and the family who raised her after their daughter, Hannah, kidnapped her and passed her off as their granddaughter. Having ended her relationship with Reeve after he gossiped about her life story to the media, Janie falls for Michael, a student who seems overly interested in digging up details about her past. When his true intentions become clear, Janie returns to the security and comfort of her relationship with Reeve, who impulsively proposes. Meanwhile, Hannah's life continues to spiral out of control while she plans revenge on her parents. Numerous flashbacks make it unnecessary to have read the previous books, although readers invested in the characters will receive the most enjoyment from the story. Janie's desire to bond with her biological family, while wanting to protect the fragile feelings of her second family, is understandable and sensitively drawn. Although her impending wedding seems naïve and rushed, her longing to establish a new life and identity is palpable. Hannah's psychological issues and deepening paranoia are believable and fascinating. The overwhelming feelings of guilt and regret that are inevitably felt by many families affected by kidnapping are genuinely expressed. A lengthy author's note explains the inspiration behind The Face on the Milk Carton and the reasoning behind each sequel.—Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA