Title: Whatever Happened to Janie
Author: Caroline B. Cooney
Publisher: Laurel Leaf
Genre: YA Mystery
How I Read It: Paperback from the library.
Synopsis: How could it possibly be true? But it is true.
As Janie Johnson glanced at the face of the ordinary little girl on the milk carton, she was overcome with shock. She recognized that little girl – it was she…
With the mystery of her kidnapping now unraveled, Janie’s story continues, and the nightmare is not over. No one can bring back or relive the twelve years gone by. The Spring family wants justice, but who is really to blame? The Johnsons know that they must abide by the decisions made, but it’s difficult to figure out what’s best for everyone.
Janie Johnson or Jennie Spring? Who is she? Certainly there’s enough love for everyone, but how can the two separate families live happily ever after?
* Synopsis taken from the back of the book
My Review: I’ve always been conflicted about this book. I’m a huge “what happens next” kind of person, but in some way, I don’t really want anything more to happen to Janie. Everyone involved in these stories has suffered immeasurably and I very much want things to be better. But life doesn’t usually work that way, so why would a book?
I’d first like to acknowledge that this story is pretty implausible. I know that most kids who are kidnapped aren’t really living safely with another family. They don’t usually come home. And they definitely don’t get to choose anything that goes along with this. But if you set that all aside, I still say this is a reasonably realistic set of books.
Can you imagine how horrible it would be to be in the shoes of these people? I don’t envy a single person on any side of this equation. I don’t know what I would have decided if I had ever been faced with the choices Janie has to make. Even though her New Jersey family is the one she was born into, they aren’t the people she grew up with. She’s essentially forced to live in a house full of strangers, and it’s clear that the other kids involved have a difficult time accepting that it’s difficult for her. As much as everyone wants to know each other, they don’t, and that’s hard.
Once again, this is a pretty difficult one to read in terms of the level of emotion in it. I got choked up and teary on numerous occasions. I could see this one from both sides – Janie didn’t seem to try very hard, but her family also seemed to have unrealistic expectations about how this would go. As she points out in the book, there’s no real right choice.
Back when I originally read this series, it ended with this one. We never knew what happened to Janie, beyond her going back to the Johnson’s. A third book was published in 1996, but I had lost interest by then and had no idea it existed. However, given the way this ends, I’m totally curious now to see what’s going to continue to happen in the lives of all these people. They feel a little like real people to me, and I’m concerned for them! I’ll be grabbing the third book from the library soon.
Read this book if: This is a decent follow up to the first book, and definitely gives you new information in Janie’s story!
My Rating: 3/5 – Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun!