Thursday, March 5, 2009

Whatever Happened to Janie?


In the sequel to The Face on the Milk Carton, Janie Johnson realizes that her biological family is the Spring family. (Quick recap: Janie was kidnapped from a New Jersey mall when she was three by a brainwashed cult member, for no real particular reason. Hannah took the three year old girl to her parents and presented her as her own child. Hannah's parents, assuming this was their grandchild, decided to raise the kid as their own, until the truth came out. And then Hannah disappeared forever.) In this book, the Spring family requests that Janie come home and live with them, and she does. The Springs are comprised of Mr. and Mrs. S, seventeen year old Stephen, sixteen year old Jodie and the thirteen year old twins, Brendan and Brian.

Janie's real name was Jennie Spring (Hannah must have heard "Janie" and not "Jennie") which is what her new family calls her, but I'm just going to refer to her as Janie, since that's easier. And much less sick. So, basically, everyone is surprised that Janie can't suddenly erase twelve years of history and become a Spring. (Well, everyone except the readers.)

We have two hundred pages of Janie feeling bad about not fitting in, followed by explaining to Mrs. Spring that she can't do this anymore, and then going home with her biological parents' blessing (even though they're devastated again). Somewhere along the line, the Feds show up and tell Janie that they have to try to find Hannah and try her for kidnapping, and Janie tells them that the stress of that will destroy the Johnsons. It's a moot point because no one ever finds Hannah in this book. Or in the next book for that matter. Oh, and then Jodie and Stephen go to New York City to try to track down Hannah but realize they can't.

  • First of all, I just have to say this book is so incredibly sick. Janie is unhappy that people are making her pretend that the Springs are her parents and calling her Jennie and everyone around her is wondering why this is such a big adjustment. Jodie even tells her at one point to tell her to pretend it's summer camp and that soon she'll be wondering why she was even homesick. Bitch, no, it's not summer camp, this is her life.
  • Mr. Spring isn't very big on forgiveness for cult members. In one scene when the Spring family is having dinner, he holds a spoon and twists the handle all the way back and says that this is what he'd like to do to Hannah for ruining their lives. Hey, Mr. Spring, wanna sign my petition to free Susan Atkins?
  • This title was so misleading. I totally thought something was actually going to, you know, happen to Janie. Janie going to live in NJ for a few weeks and then deciding to come home isn't much of a plot. If you're going to rip off a movie title, why not "Janie Doesn't Live Here Anymore?" I'm beginning to realize why they combined the plot of this book with the plot of The Face on the Milk Carton when they did the movie version.
  • One of the Springs asks Janie why she was drinking milk if she's lactose intolerant and she explains that she was eating peanut butter and that she of course had to have milk. Was Caroline B. Cooney being paid off by the dairy lobby to insert all these "milk is so cool" moments? The only time in my life I ever thought milk was cool was when I was five, terminally uncool and watching those awful "Milk: It Does a Body Good" commercials where all the kids grow up into super sexy adults because they drink milk. I must confess, I really liked the one where the little girl talks about how much the boy she likes will regret blowing her off after she drinks a lot of milk and grows into a sexpot. Hmmm. Now I blame lactose intolerance for why I never topped 5'2 or grew beyond a B-cup.
  • At one point, Hannah was arrested for prostitution in New York City. She wasn't accused of the kidnapping because at that point, no one knew she was connected to the Spring case. To make this book more interesting, after I found out about the prostitution charge, every time Hannah was mentioned, I mentally re-imagined a scene from the book Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl.
  • One of Jodie's best friends, Nicole, asks Janie if she's been back to the mall where she was kidnapped. (Yup, Nicole, it's like her own personal Mecca.) She also asks Janie, "'Was the interstate built when you were kidnapped?...Did that woman drive you away on I-95?'" The bad news, Nicole? As a friend, you fail. But the good news is that Nancy Grace and her entourage have been following your work and they think you have a real future in mining other people's emotional pain for fun and profit.
  • Nicole is also making a dress out of her brother's matchbox cars for some contest, by sewing them to her mother's old minidress. I think this is definitely a "On anyone else, it would have looked hideous, but on Claudia Kishi, it looked great" moment. Since Claudia would have jazzed it up with turquoise leggings, matching converse sneakers, a pony tail held in place by a gigantic car shaped barrette and an earring shaped like a tire in one ear and an earring shaped like a windshield wiper in the other.
  • The Spring family (all seven of them when you include Janie) live in a three bedroom house with only one bathroom. Where you get three minutes for a shower every morning. With no wireless. And only Nintendo for entertainment (and no, not even Super Nintendo, just regular Nintendo). Who knew Hell would really exist? And that it would be in New Jersey?
  • Mrs. Spring is described as loving kids and her family. When Janie was kidnapped, there were five Spring kids, and Mrs. S was planning on a sixth kid (well, before number 3 got kidnapped). Mrs. Spring, I love my cigar, but even I take it out of my mouth once in a while.
  • The Springs gave their kids cutesy letter names. Janie (well, Jennie) and Jodie. Brendan and Brian. And if they had had a sixth kid, they would have named it Stacey to go with Stephen. Well, at least they're capable of different letters, but the whole thing has kind of a weird Duggars feel to it. Speaking of the Duggars, you know that if this situation were taking place now that the Spring family would get a TV deal on TLC out of this. I'd call it: "I Was a Trust-Fund Kidnapping Victim."
  • Janie's boyfriend, Reeve, drives to New Jersey to visit her and tell her he's gotten into college. We get treated to a paragraph of him musing about shaving. Apparently, it's the best thing in the world for a guy. Almost as good as sex. As Reeve puts it, "Sex would be better, but sex was harder to get than razors." I never realized it before, but taken out of context, that sounds vaguely suicidal. Also, I blame this book for why I get irrationally excited whenever I see a man shaving.
  • Janie's older brother Stephen demands to know why she didn't try to come home when she was kidnapped and Brendan defends her by saying that the Johnsons probably tortured her and lied to her to keep her there and that she must have scars from the experience. Uh, it was suburban Connecticut, Brendan, not Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Things were bad, but not that bad. Besides, if you wear the wrong strand of pearls to the summer Cotillion, they can do all kinds of things to you without so much as leaving a mark.
  • Jodie and Stephen get really pissy at Janie for leaving without putting any real effort into becoming a Spring. Because forgetting the family who raised you for twelve years is just so damned easy, right? Jodie even asks Janie if the real reason she's leaving is because the Springs' house is so small and because they have less money than the Johnsons (ooh, class conflict rears its ugly head!). Janie replies that she hopes she's a better person than that, but hey--speaking as someone else with a buttload of hair, one 3-minute shower a day is not going to do it. I can barely lather and rinse in three minutes, let alone repeat.
  • Did I mention I hate Stephen and Jodie? During a fight, Stephen to Janie: "'You were three...that's old enough for complete sentences. That's old enough for arguing.'" And Jodie to Janie, after Janie's decided to leave: "'You are scum.'" Gee, I wonder why she wanted to go back home after all that.

Spring family? You guys are deluded. Jodie and Stephen, get over yourselves. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, hire better legal counsel next time someone says you can't have custody over your daughter.

Well, they really MILKed this franchise for all it was worth. There are two more Janie Johnson books to recap and hate on--The Voice on the Radio and then finally, What Janie Found. No, don't get your hopes up either. She doesn't find much.