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Book Review

This mystery coming-of-age novel by Caroline B. Cooney is the fifth in the " Janie" series and is published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Publishers.

Janie Face to Face is written for kids ages 12 years and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Janie Face to Face is the fifth and last book in a series that began with the novel The Face on the Milk Carton. Cooney presents two converging storylines.

In one, Janie, who was kidnapped at age 3 from a shopping mall, is now in college in New York City. Her kidnapping story was national news, so she chose to go to school in New York in an attempt to be as anonymous as possible and put her past behind her. Janie even changes her name to Jane so that no one will know who she really is, though she later regrets that she didn't change it to Jennie Spring, the name given to her by her birth parents.

During Janie's sophomore year, she meets Michael and falls for him, even though her friends think he is a creep. Around the same time, Janie, her family members and many of her friends receive letters from a true-crime writer named Calvin Vinesett. He states that he is going to write a book about her kidnapper. Janie wants nothing to do with the project.

Janie has two sets of parents: the Johnsons, who raised her from age 3 to 15 thinking at first that she was their granddaughter, and the Springs, who are her birth parents. (The kidnapper is the birth daughter of the Johnsons.) One weekend, Janie decides to visit the Johnsons, and Michael, who has been stalking her, shows up on the same train.

While visiting her parents, Janie receives a text from her best friend, Sarah-Charlotte, who lives in a different city, telling her about a guy named Mick. Mick tried to pry information about Janie out of her. Janie views the photo that Sarah-Charlotte sends her and realizes Mick and Michael are the same guy. She breaks up with Michael and subsequently contacts her old high school flame, Reeve, who invites her to his place in Charlotte for the weekend.

Reeve takes Janie back to the airport two days later and proposes to her. The weekend together has helped them realize how in love they are and that they don't want to be apart. They plan to marry in July, only six weeks away. Most of their friends and family try to talk them out of it, saying they are too young. The young lovers stick to their plan, however, and when Reeve can't get vacation time on their planned date, they move the wedding up to June, only 10 days away.

The other story line involves Hannah Javensen, the woman who kidnapped 3-year-old Jennie Spring. Cooney summarizes the abduction: Hannah takes the toddler on a whim and deposits her at her parents' house, telling them the young girl is her own daughter. The Javensens, who later change their name to Johnson in an effort to hide from Hannah, raise Jennie as their own, calling her Janie.

Hannah moves around the country. Since she is a wanted criminal, she resorts to stealing women's wallets and their identities. Her father sends her a check every month to help support her

After spending several years toiling as a dishwasher and maid, Hannah is fed up with her life. She is broke and hatches a plan to obtain her parents' money and get back at Janie, who she feels has stolen her life. Hannah finds out on Facebook where Janie is and that she is going to be married. Hannah, posing as a true-crime author, writes the letters to Janie's friends and family about the Calvin Vinesett book.

The two plot lines converge as Hannah steals a car and arrives at her parents' apartment while Janie's wedding is taking place in another state. Janie learns where Hannah is by cellphone just as she is about to walk down the aisle to marry Reeve. She feels safe because Hannah is in a different state and there are policemen and an FBI agent at her wedding. The wedding of Jennie Spring and Reeve Shields goes off without a hitch.

The police find Hannah trashing her parents' apartment as she searches for their money, and they arrest her.

Christian Beliefs

Janie and her family are Catholic, and their faith plays a significant role in their lives. Janie states several times that she wants to marry Reeve in a church with God as their witness. Janie and Reeve go through premarital counseling with Father John, who marries them later in the book. In one session, Father John talks to them about honoring their father and mother as it's described in the 10th commandment. Father John says a prayer at the wedding after marrying Reeve and Janie.

Janie's brother Stephen decides at one point to go to mass, something he has not done in years. The act gives him peace. Janie's brother Brendan realizes at one point that he is praying for Reeve's and Janie's safety. Janie's sister Jodie spends a year in Haiti at a Catholic mission. Reeve claims at one point in the book that he is a Christian.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Janie loves all four of her parents. The Johnsons are definitely not perfect, but they are good to her, pouring their lives into the little girl and raising her until she is in her teens. Janie loves them dearly and forgives them for sending checks to Hannah.

The Springs are portrayed as ideal parents. Mr. Spring is a big bear of a man who dearly loves Janie and her four siblings. He has an ability to connect with all of them except Janie's brother Brendan, even though they possess drastically different personalities. After moving away to college, Janie starts spending more and more time on the weekends with the Springs. They extend love and grace to her, and she to them, and by the end of the book she truly feels a part of the family.


Janie's brother Stephen is sent photos of the possible wedding dresses Janie will wear. His girlfriend, Kathleen, sees the photos, and her internal thoughts use God's name as an exclamation after viewing each one.

While there is no graphic violence in the book, Janie's kidnapping, a horrifying act, is described. Janie is not hurt nor does she seem very scared during the abduction.

Hannah, in need of more cash to carry out her plans, robs people at knifepoint at ATM machines. Later we learn that she repeatedly stabbed a woman who lived in her apartment building. The woman survived.

Janie's brother Brendan thinks to himself that he would like to drag Michael through town with his truck.


Janie reminisces about her first kiss with Reeve. They kissed after falling in a big pile of leaves while they were raking a yard together one afternoon.

Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • Why did the Johnsons believe that Janie was their granddaughter?
  • How do circumstances play a part in what they assumed?
  • Tell about an assumption you made that was wrong.
  • How did circumstances play a part in what you assumed?

  • Why is Janie able to forgive the Johnsons?

  • How do our own failings help us accept the faults of others?
  • Why might Jesus ask us to forgive others?
  • How might Janie's life have been worse if she hadn't been able to forgive others?
  • How does she come to peace with her life by the end of the story?

  • How did Janie's kidnapping impact many people, including her?

  • Can a bad thing only affect one person?
  • Think about something selfish you have done.
  • How might your selfishness have affected others?

Additional Comments/Notes

This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

12 and up


Caroline B. Cooney






Record Label



Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Publishers


On Video

Year Published




We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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