Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Voice on the Radio

What lies in store for Janie in this third installment in the Face on the Milk Carton series? As usual, not much. Janie's boyfriend, Reeve, has gone off to college and is working for the college radio station. As a deejay, Reeve has very little to say, until he suddenly finds himself telling his listeners the story of Janie discovering she was kidnapped. The first two times I heard it, it put me to sleep way faster than Ambien (two layers of sleep my ass!) but somehow this story catches on and Reeve becomes a campus celebrity. Janie doesn't know about this but her response towards journalists, yearbook staff and just about anyone who wants to know the gory details of her life is to freak out entirely, so Reeve knows he has something to hide.

All goes well until Jodie Spring (Janie's bio sister from Jersey) decides to take a trip up to Boston to visit some colleges. She takes Brian (her younger brother) with her and also invites Janie to go along. Once in Boston, they tune in to the radio station, realize what's going on, and get pissed at Reeve. Lots of drama ensues, so Reeve quits the station. In the end, Janie forgives Reeve but doesn't get back together with him. Before Reeve quits, though, someone claiming to be Hannah calls in to the station at one point and Reeve's a wuss and hangs up on her before she can say anything, then wonders if it's really her. Except it's not because Reeve's older sister, Lizzie, who's a lawyer, finds out Hannah has been dead several years. Ho-hum.

  • Poor Reeve has no idea what to say when he's on the air, and that's why he has to resort to exploiting his girlfriend's kidnapping adventure. And here I thought that thinly veiled bigotry and reactionary politics were the way to get listeners. Have Rush Limbaugh and Don Imus steered me wrong? Aw, not again!
  • Lizzie's working at a firm that has been working on cult related activity and that's how she conveniently finds out that Hannah's dead. I'm so bored with this book and they just killed off the only reason I remotely care. I think I'd be slightly more interested if the sequel reveals that Lizzie gets her license to practice law revoked for giving away confidential information and has to resort to cage dancing for money.
  • Hmm, now that I think about it, if Lizzie can find out that Hannah's dead, why couldn't the FBI have done that? They mentioned they were looking for her in the last book, but according to Lizzie, she's been dead five years. Did whoever get the assignment to ghostwrite this book even read the last two books? You know, they only take about an hour to read and the reading level is intended for sixth graders. I'm assuming that whoever ghostwrites these is probably around an eighth grade reading level, so really, there's no excuse.
  • Lizzie's also described as one of those career women who's thin because she's too busy for lunch because of her job. Everyone I know in a high powered job has gained weight from free food or eating at weird hours, so I'm not buying it--I think Reeve's sister has an eating disorder. Poor girl won't even eat two grapes in a row. They couldn't have had her pass out a couple of times? Then we could have gotten a real double whammy when it came to after-school special messages: Don't be anorexic and don't exploit your girlfriend for popularity!
  • When Jodie visits Janie, she tells her, "...I want to be famous for something other than having a kidnapped sister...I still hate you for that, you know." This is a little vague--for not adjusting to life in a lower middle class household? For being kidnapped in the first place? For having a nondescript name? Hey, Jodie, are you also pissed at JonBenet Ramsey? Damn that little six year old girl having the audacity to be murdered! And on Christmas of all days.
  • Even though I hate Reeve for not having the stones to deal with radio without screwing over Janie, I also hate the way that Janie and her siblings react because it's so melodramatic. Janie wraps herself up in a blanket and lies on the foot of the bed and refuses to move. Oh, Janie, get over yourself. Climb out of the blanket, grab a snuggie and have some Red Bull. If Tyra, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jessica Simpson can face the press and get up every day without crying, so can you. You don't even have love handles, babe, and your story was only broadcast on COLLEGE RADIO.
  • Reeve muses to himself that he has raped Janie's soul. Janie's not yet sixteen and you're a freshman in college--you want to maybe look into whether you're real life statutory raping her? Use that legal counsel for something constructive for once.
  • Everyone tells Janie she was basically a brat in the last book because of the way she handled the adjustment (and Janie herself accepts that she behaved badly). Okay, she said some rude things (like when they ask her what topping she likes on her pizza, she's all "We don't eat junk food in my family") but come on. If you told me I had to live with a bunch of strangers and pretend I cared about them, I'd make Janie Johnson look like Pollyanna with my bitchery. I'd be all, "Are you guys culturally adverse to birth control or is your wife just allergic to latex, Mr. Spring?" Or "Hey, Mrs. S., Costco's having a sale on Slimfast, I picked you up a pack." Or my piece de resistance, "Guys, guys! Come quick, there's a note saying Brendan's been taken, and--oh, whoops, PSYCH!" I'd have been out of there and living it up again in suburban Connecticut in less than a weekend!
  • Visionary Assassins is the name of the band that Reeve always plays when he takes a break from reciting another Janie anecdote on the air. When he meets the band in real life, he's surprised by how nerdy they look. Oh, Reeve, dear, sweet Reeve. Sure, this book was written in '96 but the days of Pearl Jam and Nirvana are so over. If you think Visionary Assassins are bad, just wait a few years till you get a load of Weezer and Fall Out Boy. Soon, no self-respecting deejay will be able to swing a dead flannel wearing alterna band lead singer without hitting a hipster. And Reeve? Don't refer to any more bands as looking like computer science students. The word is emo, and no, those band aids on their forearms aren't from rolling the dice too hard at D&D meetings.
  • After Janie finds out about what Reeve did, she starts opening up to Jodie a lot more. Jodie's reaction: "Janie needs me...It took the betrayal of her boyfriend to make that happen." Then when they're talking on the phone and call waiting kicks in, Jodie tells Janie that if it's her best friend, Sarah-Charlotte, to tell her to buzz off. Hmm, this just took a turn for the obsessive. Let's insert a scene where we ponder what Janie really means to Jodie. "She's my sister, my lover, my sister, my lover...she's my sister AND my lover!"

  • Reeve thinks about how he always hated it when Janie wanted to go on and on, rehashing the details of her kidnapping back when she first found out, and how he wished they could just have sex. I don't know why Caroline B. Cooney wanted us to think that Reeve was such an awesome boyfriend. What, Reeve, you want brownie points because you didn't cop a feel when she was crying on your shoulder about how horrible she felt about being kidnapped?
  • Poor Brian Spring. He can't relate to anyone in his family anymore. He sucks at sports, he's way more academic minded than anyone else around him, he's a little socially inept, and to top it all off, he's got a bewitching redhead in his life. You know, I think his real problem is that he's actually in the wrong series.

Conclusions? Well, unfortunately, Reeve's still making poor grades at a no-name school. He's got no radio show, no girlfriend and a lot more people want him to die. On the bright side, Reeve, I hear Elizabeth Smart's single and those Mormon girls aren't nearly so uppity when it comes to having their kidnapping story splashed all over the tabloids. And they never sass their menfolk--go for it!