books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Janie Face to Face by Caroline B. Cooney

In this conclusion to Janie Johnson’s harrowing story about being kidnapped as a child and raised in another family, readers finally get answers to all the questions they have about Janie’s life, Janie’s families, and what happened to Hannah, the woman who kidnapped her.

Except this is a hot mess of a novel and pretty much undoes any of the good that the beginning of the series ever did.  Unless you’re a die-hard fan of Cooney’s early 90s series, there’s no reason to pick this one up.  Ever.  At all.  A confusing timeline, what can only be described as flat, lifeless writing, and virtually NO PLOT make this one a total miss.

Nothing about this ever gels.  Janie’s in college now, but she’s still as vapid and childish as she ever was.  The way she talks and thinks about the world is from another era, but somehow we’re in present-day, where everyone has Facebook and iPhones and is connected via social media.  If we’re only five years in the future from when the first book took place, how did we make such a jump in terms of technology?  Nothing about the previous story lines work within the context of present day, and because of this, nothing about this story feels at all plausible.

None of the other characters make up for Janie’s rampant obliviousness and selfish actions.  I read one review where the reviewer referred to Janie’s family as a bunch of “wackadoos,” and it really couldn’t be more apropos.  Everyone in the novel is straight up crazypants, and not in a fun way.  The only person with anything resembling an interesting voice is Hannah, and the novel’s rushed ending ruins even that.

Therein lies the real problem here: nothing happens.  For 300 pages, Cooney wastes everyone’s time by not doing anything to really further the plot.  It’s only in the novel’s rushed final pages that readers and characters alike get anything resembling a conflict, a climax, and a resolution.  It’s a bore and a chore to get through this one, and the pay off isn’t nearly worth the time invested.

If you’re a die-hard fan who must know if Janie and the totally cardboard Reeve get together, read the last couple of pages.  Other than that, this is a total miss.  Just go re-read the first novel in the series again and bask in the 90s glory.  A total disasterpiece.

Janie Face to Face by Caroline B. Cooney. Delacorte Books for Young Readers: 2013. Electronic galley accepted for review.

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