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The Janie Johnson series is a five book series by Caroline B. Cooney (Losing Christina) about a young girl named Janie Johnson who sees her own face on a milk carton and realizes that the people who raised her are not her real parents. In fact, she was stolen from her birth family (the Springs) in early childhood and the Springs want her back. The series follows the young Janie in her attempts to figure out the truth about her origins and decide who she wants to be from now on. Will she remain Janie Johnson, living with the family that is not truly hers, or become Jennie Spring and finally bring peace to the family that birthed her? The first and second book in the series were combined into a Made-for-TV Movie in 1995.

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The series consists of the following titles:

  • The Face on the Milk Carton (1990)
  • Whatever Happened to Janie (1993)
  • The Voice on the Radio (1996)
  • What Janie Found (2000)
  • Janie Face to Face (2013)


This series provides examples of:

  • All Men Are Perverts: Reeve continually tries to imagine ways to convince Janie, who is not ready for sex, to change her mind.
  • Adaptation Name Change: For whatever reason, the made for TV Movie changed most of the surnames of the characters. The one who didn't get changed was Reeve Shields.
  • Adults Are Useless: Hannah should have gotten help beyond constant reminders that she had no reason to be unhappy because she had everything she could ever want. It backfired and made her easy prey for a cult.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Janie wishes that her name wasn't boring, dowdy Janie Johnson. She learns that Janie Johnson is not her birth name and begins to wish for it back when she has to get used to being called "Jennie Spring" in Whatever Happened to Janie.
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  • Black Sheep: Janie or Jennie when she rejoins the Spring family in Whatever Happened to Janie.
  • Changeling Fantasy: an unusual subversion; Janie has a serious crisis of identity when she discovers her real parents.
  • Creepy Child: Young Hannah.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The TV movie combined the first two books of the series. The remaining three have not been adapted.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Hannah's backstory started off as an impressionable 16-year girl suffering from white guilt who needed parental permission to join a cult. Later on, it was apparently a college student who felt isolated and far from home. Similarly, her motives for kidnapping Janie seem to change from 'cult mission' to 'loneliness' to 'batshit insane' according to the whims of the author.
    • In the fifth installment, we see the kidnapping from Hannah's point of view, and the reason seems to be revenge against her parents, and to some extent Janie herself. It also reveals that Hannah has delusional thoughts. It is possible Hannah has been dealing with an untreated mental illness, like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. This would explain why, with the cult acting a catalyst, Hannah transformed from a weird kid to a raving lunatic.
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  • Face on a Milk Carton: Janie finds her own picture on the milk carton. This is how the story begins.
  • Fiery Redhead: Janie, also her sister, Jodie and their brother.
  • Friendless Background: Apparently, this was Hannah's forte. No one liked her in high school, college, in the cult or before the kidnapping.
  • Gambit Roulette: Janie's wedding is partially a plan to bring Hannah out of hiding so she can be arrested. Similarly, Hannah is posing as a true crime novelist writing a book about the kidnapping so she can try to get revenge on her parents and Janie. For reasons.
  • Hidden Depths: Sarah-Charlotte Sherwood first looks to be a silly self-involved wealthy girl in Janie's circle of friends. As the series goes on, Sarah-Charlotte proves to be a true friend to Janie that helps her weather the crisis. In the fifth book she defends Janie's adoptive parents to the news media doing an update on Janie's story.
  • Make-Out Point: nicknamed "Sexual Overlook."
  • Overprotective Parents: A completely justified trope with the Springs.
  • Raised by Grandparents: The parents who raise Janie reveal that they are not her parents, but her grandparents, and that her real mother is their daughter, Hannah. This turns out to be a lie that Hannah told them to make them accept the "replacement daughter" she stole for them.
  • Religion of Evil: The cult Hannah joins.
  • Smithical Marriage: subverted when Janie goes to a hotel with Reeve.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: In What Janie Found, Janie learns that Mr. Johnson has been paying Hannah regularly for the past few years. Though Janie, Reeve, and her brother react as if it were a betrayal at first, the payments were justifiable that he still cares for Hannah as his daughter despite what she has done, and perhaps he thought it would help keep Hannah from causing trouble to another innocent family.
  • Trilogy Creep: Began as a trilogy then two new books were added to the series.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: Occurs twice in Janie Face to Face, both involving Reeve and Janie. One after Janie dumps a boy who turns out to be hired by Hannah to mess with her and the other after Reeve buys a ring, and is 'forced' to re-propose by an airline pilot.


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