The final title of Caroline B. Cooney‘s award-winning Janie Johnson quartet begins with a newspaper article that marks the anniversary of the “Missing Child Milk Carton Campaign” that – for better or for worse – reunited Janie Johnson with her birthfamily with whom she spent the first three of her 16 years as Jennie Spring.
One year later, the Johnson and Spring families have re-formed together around Janie. Brian, half of Janie’s younger twin brothers, has moved in with the Johnsons for the summer. Even Reeve has tentatively been allowed back into Janie’s life, but only as the ex-boyfriend, the boy next door, a childhood family fixture at best. She’s forgiven his betrayal, but no one has forgotten, least of all regretful, mortified Reeve.
With Janie’s Connecticut father hospitalized and her mother incapacitated with worry, Janie is given the responsibility of dealing with the family’s finances. In a folder marked “H.J.,” she finds evidence that threatens the fragile peace her two families have so carefully, painfully established … “H.J.” is Hannah Javensen, Janie’s kidnapper, and her comatose father has seemingly been supporting that destructive kidnapper for years …
Hannah is alive, “[l]ast seen flying west.” The file leads Janie to Colorado, to the very same city where Janie’s older brother Stephen is in college, a faraway city Stephen chose in an attempt to escape his family’s troubled past. With Brian and Reeve for support, Janie is determined to find some answers in Boulder, where Hannah is awaiting her next check … will Janie finally learn what happened at that pivotal moment that shattered all their lives 13 years ago? Is she ready?
A full decade has passed since Janie’s story concluded … and although Cooney is seemingly finished with a series she didn’t originally even intend after writing the first The Face on the Milk Carton almost 20 years ago, the stories have certainly stood the test of time. In 2010, Janie would be 26 … who would she have become? What of her siblings, her double set of parents, the boy next door?
The four titles will certainly appeal to younger readers … my children are both riveted with the audible version which keeps them from bickering in the car. And the books certainly made a long swim meet weekend fly by for an old reader like me. My final question is inevitable … are the ‘janies’ [see The Voice on the Radio] really finished …?
Tidbit: I have NEWS to share from Caroline Cooney herself! Here’s the latest on Janie: “Incredibly – I am about to embark on Janie V, when they are all several years older, and also will be doing a novelette in e-book format about Janie. Who’d have guessed? Certainly not I.” Whoo hoooo! Stay tuned …
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult