Release Date: Jan. 8, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: Janie Johnson #5
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
In this riveting and emotional conclusion to the thriller-romance Janie series, that started with The Face on the Milk Carton, all will be revealed as readers find out if Janie and Reeve’s love has endured, and whether or not the person who brought Janie and her family so much emotional pain and suffering is brought to justice.
Where do I begin? Janie Johnson's stories, The Face on the Milk Carton series, are among the few books I've kept since middle and high school. My well-loved, original copies, reread enough times that I stopped counting, remain on my shelf to this day. I was utterly captivated by the tale Caroline B. Cooney spun about a teenage girl shocked out of her comfortable life by the realization that the life she's always known wasn't the one she was always supposed to have. But after four books, questions remained.
Has Janie Johnson/Jennie Spring finally reconciled her lives and discovered who she is? Will Janie and Reeve, the boy next door (who is the epitome of boys next door!), rekindle their romance? And perhaps most important of all, will Janie's kidnapper ever be brought to justice?
Janie Face to Face, the fifth and final book in the series, answers those questions. It feels like the right ending.
This novel reminded me what I loved so much about Cooney's writing. It's gorgeous, direct, and feels like a genuine chronicle of her characters lives, raw and unromanticized. For example, in talking about Janie's birth mothers fury Cooney writes it was as if she were being "executed by a firing squad of her own rage."
Janie's in college in New York now. She's spending time with both her families, but she still isn't sure if she's Janie or Jennie. She's so conflicted that she even tries Jane on for size.
Chapters are interspersed with the kidnappers perspective. In her own words, Hannah tells us what happened then and through those glimpses into her life and mind you learn that the crime Hannah never planned and claims meant nothing to her is just as central to her life as it is to Janie.
Things have calmed down with the media madness, and just as Janie starts to get settled into what she thinks is her fresh start a nosy writer is hoping to turn her real life-struggles as the girl who saw her own face on a milk carton into his next true crime bestseller. He's bombarding her families and friends with emails and letters in hopes of getting the exclusive, and someone talks. Her past has come back to haunt her yet again and betrayal isn't far behind.
The crisis sends her back into the arms of the one person who knows everything - Reeve - and has always been there. He was just as I remembered him. Perfect without being unrealistic. His boy next door charms and protective nature made me fall in love with him all over again.
My main complaint with Janie Face to Face is that it's a lot of story packed into 352 pages and felt a bit like reading CliffNotes because years passed in mere chapters. It wasn't exactly info dumping but it felt a bit like speeding through information I should've had more time to digest. It's possible that's a product of this novel being distanced from the fourth novel by more than a decade, which I can forgive.
All in all, Janie Face to Face is a fitting conclusion to this series. While predictable in many respects, the final chapter of Janie's story offers the answers fans of the series yearned for. After all these years, Janie deserved closure and I'm glad she got it.