Whatever Happened to Janie? picks up not long after the cliffhanger ending of The Face on the Milk Carton. Janie is sent to live with her biological family, the Springs, who welcome their long-lost sister with open arms. Janie, on the other hand, feels horrible about leaving the Johnsons, the parents who raised her, and she just can’t get the hang of the way the Spring household does things. It seems no matter what she does, someone is offended. Jodie and Stephen Spring, the two siblings who remember their sister Jennie from before her kidnapping, try hard to make Janie feel welcome, but they, too, find it difficult to strike the right balance between making up for lost time and dealing with the past.
This second Janie Johnson story presents the reader with another impossible situation - how does a teenage girl start over in a new family when she still loves the family that raised her? This dilemma is presented from every point of view - Janie’s, the Johnsons’, the Springs’, even Janie’s boyfriend Reeve’s - and readers are drawn into each character’s struggle to make things right.
As in the first book, Caroline Cooney’s writing moves along swiftly, taking us through time without dwelling too long on any one incident or character. There is some description, but readers who are bored by long passages without dialogue won’t find themselves bogged down by pages and pages of details. The ending is somewhat romanticized - it seems unlikely that the comment of a police officer to a couple of teenagers would truly be enough to cure them of their resentment toward their sister - but it fits with the mood of the story, and does wrap things up neatly without becoming too maudlin or opening up even more complications at the tail-end of the book. That said, the ending isn’t so cut and dried that readers won’t want more. There are two - soon to be three - more books after this one, and Cooney left herself lots of room to explore.
I remember this book much more clearly than The Face on the Milk Carton, but had still forgotten how things ultimately turn out, so it was a bit like I was reading it for the first time all over again. I’m really looking forward to reviewing the next book, The Voice on the Radio, because I remember that one best of all, and I’m curious to see if it will live up to the memories I have of it.
I borrowed the ebook version of Whatever Happened to Janie? from my local public library.