Caroline B. Cooney is the author of "Goddess of Yesterday" (an ALA Notable Children's Book); "The Ransom of Mercy Carter"; and "The Face on the Milk Carton" (an IRA-CBC Children's Choice). She lives in Westbrook, CT.
Gr 7-10-- Cooney's The Face on the Milk Carton (Bantam, 1990) involved a 15-year-old girl who discovers she had been kidnapped when she was 3. Those left hanging by the ambiguous ending to that story will want to read this sequel in which Janie goes to live with her biological parents and four siblings. Although all of the family members are eager to include her, she's determined to remain emotionally aloof. Finally, Janie asserts her desire to return to her adopted family, and her biological parents love her enough to let her go. The strength of this book is that all of the parties are easy to empathize with. They are well-rounded characters with quirks and annoying qualities, yet all have compassion for ``the other guy,'' even while feeling their own pain. The suspense centers around the question of which family needs Janie more and which she will choose. There is no clear answer to her dilemma since both love her and have suffered through no fault of their own. While Janie ultimately puts her own feelings first by choosing the family that is ``real'' to her, the stage is set for future changes of heart and perhaps another sequel. Meanwhile, this book won't gather dust on the shelf. --Jacqueline Rose, Southeast Regional Library, NC
Readers left on the edge of their seats at the conclusion of The Face on the Milk Carton will race to get their hands on this equally gripping sequel. Janie is an illegally adopted child who discovered the existence of her natural parents 12 years after her kidnapping. As this phase of the saga begins, Janie Johnson (nee Jennie Spring) has contacted her real mother and father, who have lost no time in reclaiming her. Trying to do the right thing, the 15-year-old agrees to leave her much-loved adoptive parents' home in a small Connecticut town and move to the Springs' crowded New Jersey split-level. The Springs' expectations prove to be too great for homesick Janie, who cannot stop thinking about the pain her adoptive parents are suffering and feels guilty whenever she begings to be the slightest bit happy in her new household. Janie's struggle to sort out who she is and where she belongs turns out to be profoundly upsetting not only for herself, but also for both sets of parents and her natural older sister and three brothers. Cooney builds a strong case for the rights of adoptive parents while painting a sympathetic portrait of birth parents who have given up a child, unwillingly or otherwise. The power and nature of love is wrenchingly illustrated throughout this provocative novel, which expresses multiple points of view with remarkable understanding. However strange the events of this book, the emotions of its characters remain excruciatingly real. Ages 12-up. (June)