Review

Janie Face to Face

by Caroline B. Cooney

Thirteen years after the fourth book in the Janie Johnson series, readers are invited to a satisfying, suspenseful conclusion. Janie heads to college calling herself Jane, ready to put the kidnapping life behind her. Edgar Award-nominated author Caroline B. Cooney keeps readers hooked as she updates readers on the forever-changed lives of Janie, her two families and the twisted perspective of the kidnapper Hannah. The pacing and surprises will keep readers turning pages all the way to the dramatic finish.

In the fourth book, Janie learned that the man she thought of as her father for most of her life, Frank Johnson, had been sending his kidnapper daughter Hannah monthly checks. This discovery was made after Frank had a stroke and Janie had to look at his finances and move Frank and Miranda into an assisted living facility. Wheelchair bound, he struggles to speak while Miranda is lonely and too dependent on the visits from Janie.

"Revisiting a favorite series and characters makes this an enjoyable end to a very popular story, but it is the taut pacing and pervasive element of danger from Hannah that makes this volume truly engrossing."

At college, Janie wants only to reconnect with her biological Spring family, and to reclaim her place with them. She is angry with Frank and wants to distance herself from Miranda’s loneliness. At the same time, the Spring children have moved out of the house. The twins head to different colleges, Stephen is in Colorado and Jodie away in the Peace Corps.

When she is contacted by a famous true crime writer who wants to tell her story, Janie ignores him as do many of her friends and family. But one of the twins begins to give interviews, and her old friend Sarah Charlotte is approached by a creepy person who is supposedly an assistant of the writer.

Michael, a handsome new boyfriend, meets Jane near her college in New York and gets to know her better. Soon, though, he presses her for details about her life and even follows her out to the assisted living facility when she goes to visit the Johnsons. As she learns more about him, she realizes that she only ever truly loved Reeve.

The author also follows Hannah’s life in chapters numbering “pieces of the kidnapper puzzle.” Readers begin to realize that Hannah is planning revenge on the girl she feels stole the love and support of her parents.

Revisiting a favorite series and characters makes this an enjoyable end to a very popular story, but it is the taut pacing and pervasive element of danger from Hannah that makes this volume truly engrossing. Readers may want to read the previous books about Janie, but the ending here is unforgettable.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio on December 5, 2012

Janie Face to Face
by Caroline B. Cooney