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Book Review

What Janie Found by Caroline B. Cooney has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the fourth 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

Teenager Janie Johnson, her biological family and her family by virtue of kidnapping have all been through a difficult time. The agony began a few years earlier when Janie saw her 3-year-old photo on a milk carton and learned she'd been kidnapped as a child. The Johnsons, the only parents she'd ever known, had secretly believed they were her grandparents. Their daughter, Hannah, who'd joined a cult and vanished, returned one day with a child she called her own. When she rejoined the cult, the Johnsons raised Janie. Meanwhile, the Spring family lived through the horror of a missing kidnapped daughter/sister, only to learn years later she was alive.

Now Janie has gotten to know her biological parents and enjoys visits with her siblings. Her brother Brian is staying with her for the summer when she discovers a folder in Mr. Johnson's financial files. It indicates he's communicated with Hannah and has regularly given her money. Mr. Johnson has just suffered severe stroke from which he may not recover, so Janie can't discuss her discovery with him and doesn't want to broach it with her mother. She tells Brian and her ex-boyfriend, Reeve, what she's found. Hannah's last known address is in Boulder, Colo., where Brian and Janie's older brother, Stephen, attends college. Brian, Janie and Reeve form an elaborate lie to convince both sets of Janie's parents they're visiting Stephen and checking out his university.

Janie fantasizes about meeting the woman who ruined her life. As she spends time with Stephen, however, she watches him work through some of his struggles with the past. She realizes that by finding Hannah, she would just be reopening a wound for others. She also sees that she needs to move on. Brian and Reeve call it "unkidnapping" herself, or setting herself free from an emotional prison. Janie ultimately decides not to meet Hannah and to return home a free woman.

Christian Beliefs

Stephen knows his parents will like his girlfriend because in addition to all her other good qualities, she is Catholic like their family. As Janie prepares to be a bridesmaid, she thinks about the word honor. She calls it a Ten Commandments word. She thinks to herself she's sick of honoring her parents because they didn't honor her. Stephen tells Janie she missed a lot of theology by not being around church as a kid like the rest of them. He says everyone has an evil streak, and when you feel like doing evil, you have to stomp on it.

Other Belief Systems

Hannah, Janie's kidnapper, was deeply imbedded in a cult. Brian's reading on cults tells him their mission is to drain the soul and personality of their victim while keeping the body for their own use. Stephen says many of the people in Boulder would prefer soaking up the aura of the earth to working in a real job.

Authority Roles

The Johnsons have loved Janie and given her everything she wanted and needed. They've also been kind and inviting to neighbor kids, such as Reeve, and to Janie's biological siblings. Janie's biological parents are only mentioned in this book as approving of the kids' alleged college visit to Colorado. Stephen's girlfriend's dad, a former FBI agent, hopes his daughter will break up with Stephen because he suspects the young man has a lot of baggage related to the kidnapping.


Brian asks if Stephen's girlfriend is a skank. Stephen daydreams about throwing Hannah off a cliff and cheering as she dies. The Lord's name is used in vain a few times.


Stephen's girlfriend kisses his eyelids. Janie and her families have learned Hannah was arrested for working as a prostitute years after the kidnapping.

Discussion Topics

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

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying: Reeve, Brian and particularly Janie tell lie upon lie to parents, siblings and others in order to get to Colorado so Janie can confront Hannah.

Cheating: Brian admits to helping his less scholarly twin cheat on his schoolwork.

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

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





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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