HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Whatever Happened to Janie?
Author: Caroline B. Cooney
Publisher: Ember reprinted 2012
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Said to be for ages12 and up, but I would say 16 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Cooney, Caroline B. Whatever Happened to Janie? (published in 1993 by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc., 1540 Broadway, New York City, NY 10036). Janie Johnson, not yet sixteen, lives with her parents in Connecticut and is in love with the boy next door, eighteen year old Reeve. But after she recognizes her childhood piture on a milk carton, she eventually learns that she’s not really Janie Johnson but Jennie Spring who was kidnapped twelve years earlier from her family in New Jersey by the Johnsons’ wayward daughter Hannah and then palmed off on the Johnsons as her own daughter, their grandchild. An agreement is worked out for Janie/Jenny to return to her original family for three months with no contact with the Johnsons or Reeve.
Besides Jennie, Jonathan and Donna Spring have a seventeen year old son Stephen, a sixteen year old daughter Jodie, and twelve year old twin boys Brian and Brendan. Can Janie, raised as an only child, adjust to living in a large family? When the F.B.I. decides to reopen the case of Jennie’s kidnapping, how does it affect everyone involved? What will Janie/Jennie ultimately decide to do? This Book 2 of 5 in the “Janie Johnson Series” is the sequel to The Face on the Milk Carton. The ubiquitous exclamation “O my God” is occasionally used. A lot of anger and arguing occur. There are two ways to look at this book. One way was expressed by a reviewer. “I’ve never read a book about such selfish, disgusting people in my life. Seriously? In love with Reeves, the ‘cute’ guy who wants Janie to stop talking and just give him her underage body? Wow, so romantic. More like statutory rape. These sick siblings, angry at their sister for not being happy in a home she lived in for 3 years after being ripped away from the parents who raised her for 12 years? Give. Me. A. Break.”
The other way to look at it is simply a chronicle of how imperfect people who are still in shock are trying to find a way to cope with an unusual, difficult situation. By the way, the comment about Reeve is accurate. “Reeve preferred action. Physical action. Every time he and Janie had been ready to move beyond kissing, it turned out that only he was ready; Janie was just ready for more talk.” What was he ready for? “Reeve was new enough in shaving that he still thought standing in front of that mirror and using that razor was the best thing that had ever happened to him. Sex would be better, but sex was harder to get than razors.” Nothing ever happens. The Face on the Milk Carton ended up in the air, whereas Whatever Happened to Janie? has a satisfactory conclusion. Yet, there are three more sequels, Book 3, The Voice on the Radio; Book 4, What Janie Found; and Book 5, Janie Face To Face; plus What Janie Saw: An Ebook Original Short Story that features the main characters from Cooney’s Janie series.