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Book Review

The Voice on the Radio by Caroline B. Cooney has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the third book in the "Janie Johnson" series.

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

Over the past few years, Reeve Shields' neighbor-turned-girlfriend, Janie, has experienced some strange, life-altering trials. She saw a picture of a young child on a milk carton and recognized it as her own face. She learned her parents were actually not her blood relatives, as did they. Their daughter, Hannah, who had joined a cult and run away, returned one day with a child she claimed was hers. When Hannah left and rejoined the cult, her parents raised Janie as their own, thinking she was their granddaughter. When the milk carton surfaced, the truth came out about Hannah having kidnapped Janie. Janie met her biological family and even lived with them for a while before returning to the people she'd always called Mom and Dad. Reeve tried to be supportive, though he always wished for less talking and more physical intimacy with Janie.

Now Reeve has gone to college in Boston. A rich kid without the academic prowess of his siblings, Reeve has always felt he disappointed his parents. When he gets a shot as a DJ on the college radio station, he desperately wants to prove he's good at something. He sits in front of the microphone, trying to muster up a topic. Then he thinks about his beloved Janie, and all of her secrets begin to flow out of his mouth. He regrets betraying her confidence and privacy by sharing her story. But when the calls start pouring in from listeners, the station manager urges Reeve to continue doing "Janies." Basking in the popularity he's gaining as a radio personality, Reeve continues to share bits and pieces of Janie's story, as if it were an ongoing mystery. He feels guilty, but he figures she's far enough away that she will never find out what he's done.

Back in New Jersey, Janie's biological sister, Jodie, plans a trip to visit one of the colleges on her list of potential colleges. She brings along her brother, Brian, who is anxious to see the historical sites of Boston. They invite Janie, now a high school junior, to join them and surprise her boyfriend. When the siblings arrive at their hotel late one night, they turn on the radio to catch Reeve's show. They listen, stunned, as Reeve pours out intimate details of the traumatic events that have rocked their lives. Brian calls Reeve and tells him he'd better get to the hotel right away.

Janie spends the rest of the story overwhelmed, trying to understand how the boy she loves so deeply could betray her this way. Reeve berates and examines himself, hoping he will find something better at his core than has been demonstrated by his recent behavior. While the siblings had decided not to tell either set of Janie's parents about Reeve's radio show, Janie's growing affection for her biological mother leads her to share the whole story. Mom surprises all of the kids by telling Janie that one option she has is to forgive Reeve and move on. In the end, Janie makes a move in that direction. Reeve learns from his lawyer sister that the long-lost Hannah is dead.

Christian Beliefs

Reeve prays to God because he wants to be good at the core and not weak at the center of who he is.

Other Belief Systems

Hannah joined a cult that believed God was on their side. Reeve tells his listeners how Janie had such bad nightmares. She felt she had to barricade herself from demons at night with pillows. He tells them Janie had a prayer not to God, but to Hannah, begging her to stay away. Reeve wonders if he can convince Janie he told her story because he just needed an outlet for confession. He quickly realizes Brian and Jodie, who are strong Catholics, won't let him get away with that excuse.

Authority Roles

Both sets of Janie's parents love her, counsel her and support her choices. They have all been emotionally and physically weakened by the turmoil of her kidnapping and its discovery. The parents Janie lives with welcome her biological siblings into their home for visits and treat them as family.


The Lord's name spoken in vain appears several times, and crap appears once.


Janie's school has a Lipstick Day. Everyone kisses each other, but no one kisses on the lips. The point is simply to get oneself as marked up with other people's lipstick as possible. Reeve fantasizes about seeing Janie in less clothing, viewing some of her skin he hasn't yet seen. He gets frustrated by Janie's need to talk through issues with her parents, especially in the area of their physical intimacy.

Reeve's roommate's girlfriend has a key to their dorm room and practically lives there. Reeve is still trying to get used to seeing girls in his room in various stages of undress. Reeve comes to the conclusion that his betrayal of Janie is like raping her. He calls it a rape of the soul. The narrator says Reeve's radio station discusses social issues, such as New-Age love.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Drug reference: The narrator says Reeve's radio station discusses social issues, such as legalizing pot.

Music: Reeve tells Janie some of the lyrics in the music he plays are pretty rough.

Addiction: Reeve eventually wonders if he is addicted to the fame radio has brought him and if he should stay away from it like an alcoholic from a bar.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

12 and up


Caroline B. Cooney






Record Label



Ember, an imprint of Random House Children's Books


On Video

Year Published



Evergreen Young Adult Book Award, 1999; YALSA Best Books for Young Adults


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