Sunday, March 2, 2014

Teen review: The Janie Books

Title: The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
Pages: 184
Genre: Mystery
Ages best suited for: 12 up
Part of Series: Yes
Reviewed by: Camryn, 9th grade

S Y N O P S I S :
Janie Johnson, a 15-year-old, sees a missing child’s picture on the back of a milk carton. She recognizes the picture and soon comes to the conclusion that she is the little girl in the photo. The rest of the book’s story line is about her attempt to discover who she is, where she came from, and who really are her biological parents.

R E V I E W :
This book was BORING! When I picked it up, I figured it would be a fast read, but boy was I wrong. The plot line seems like it would be interesting, but it tended to get lengthy and eventually turned into a convoluted mess. The book drags on, and it has a very disappointing and unsatisfactory ending. It leaves you hanging, but in a bad way. At the end of the book, the reader is given the first chapter of Whatever Happened to Janie, the second book in the series and a preview of the third book, The Voice on the Radio. (Editor's note: There was a fourth book, What Janie Found.)

Kellie Martin
One thing that caught my interest to even buy the book was its cover. The cover is haunting, mysterious and immediately catches your eye. In my personal opinion, it falsely represents the book by making it seem more interesting than it really is. The only thing about the book I can’t bash is the skeleton outline of the story itself.

I think the story line would fit better and move more smoothly if it was adapted into a film version rather than just the book alone. To sum it all up, it has an intriguing story, but falls terribly short. My rating: 2

Editor's note: We don't usually publish negative reviews, so I hesitated to feature Camryn's. But it was an honest opinion, and I wanted to use it to point up how far young adult fiction has come in the past 25 years. Caroline Cooney's books are great examples of early teen fiction, and (although I don't personally agree with Camryn that this is a terrible book) serve to illustrate that authors of YA books have taken a quantum leap as regards creativity of subject matter. Back in the '80s and '90s, there wasn't a lot of variety in teen fiction, and people hadn't quite figured out how to write specifically for teens. So the use of context might be helpful to see why this book had massive popularity when it first came out, but might not stand the test of time for some teens who read it today.

I also wanted to mention that others agreed with Camryn that the premise was an interesting one and would adapt smoothly into a movie. The TV movie was made in 1995, starring Kellie Martin. Here is a link to watch the first half of the movie on YouTube; the second half can be reached from there.

Regarding her comments about the cover, she must be referring to the 2013 edition of the book, since the previous three certainly don't fit her description of "haunting and mysterious." Here they all are:

SEQUEL SURPRISE: Also of interest to those who choose to read this series is that there is now a fifth book, Janie Face to Face, which catches up with Janie when she's in college. Since the other books were written in 1990, 1993, 1996, and 2000, it would be interesting to see how this fourth book, written considerably more than a decade later in 2013, fits in! The publishers obviously gave all four original books a face lift to go with the new one, by re-releasing them in complementary covers. Despite their contemporary look, they give a nod to when they were written by using a land line telephone and an old box radio in the cover photos.

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