The Voice on the Radio. by Caroline B. Cooney. 1996. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. 192 pages. ISBN: 9780385322133
In this third book in Caroline Cooney’s fast-paced series about kidnapping victim Janie Johnson, Janie’s boyfriend Reeve has gone off to college desperate to make a name for himself. When he finds himself on the air at the college radio station, he starts telling the story of Janie’s kidnapping. By the end of that first broadcast, Reeve has fans calling the station asking for more “janies.” Convincing himself that he’ll never get caught, Reeve begins telling a small segment of his girlfriend’s life story every night. He knows he should quit, but the attention feels so good, and the station depends on him for its ratings. When Janie makes a surprise trip to visit Reeve in Boston, however, Reeve learns it might just be too late to take back this mistake.
Like the two titles that come before it, The Voice on the Radio presents an impossible situation with two sympathetic sides. It’s difficult to know who to root for because Reeve feels understandably inferior to his successful siblings, while Janie and the Springs feel justifiably betrayed by a boy they love and idolize. Themes of betrayal, exploitation, trust, loyalty, and forgiveness are woven throughout the story, and Reeve’s fall from his pedestal opens up a lot of wonderful dialogue and interactions between Janie and her birth family. Losing confidence in her relationship with Reeve drives Janie to turn more toward her siblings and birth parents, resulting in a satisfying ending that suggests it will be smooth sailing for the Springs from here on out. There is a slight cliffhanger ending regarding Janie and Reeve themselves, but there isn’t the urgent need for the next book that I felt after reading The Face on the Milk Carton. In fact, I originally read this book the year it was published, and assumed it concluded the series. I didn’t learn until recently that four years later, Cooney published What Janie Found.
This book has a lot of really quotable and insightful lines. When Janie thinks of Reeve, she reflects that “she knew the buttons on his sweater and the whorls of his fingerprints (p. 134).” When Reeve begins feeling sorry for himself, he realizes that “The only people who still liked him were people he hadn’t met yet.” Little moments such as these are so simple, but in so few words they convey strong, clear messages. I think that is why Cooney is a great author to recommend to reluctant readers. The writing isn’t dumbed down; it’s concise and engaging and keeps even the most indifferent readers turning those pages.
Reading this book brought back fond memories for me. I remember thinking I was so sophisticated reading this book in 8th grade when one of the main characters was in college. I also thought it was neat that Reeve and Janie had email (which, in 1996, I did not). I wonder if contemporary kids would find it terribly difficult to swallow a story without texting, cell phones, or Facebook, but it held up just fine for me. I’m very curious to see what the use of technology is like in the next book, What Janie Found as well as in the new book expected in January, Janie Face to Face.
I borrowed The Voice on the Radio from my local public library.
For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.