The Face on the Milk Carton

The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney

No one ever believes the milk carton. All these “missing” children aren’t really lost or missing. No, they’re probably just runaways who don’t want to be found. That’s what Janie Johnson thought.

Until she sees her own three-year old self on one of those milk cartons.

Janie knows this has to be a mistake. Mommy and Daddy would never even think of committing a crime, let alone kidnap a little girl from a New Jersey mall. There has to be an explanation.

Distraught and confused, Janie doesn’t want to confront her loving parents. Confronting them would only mean that she’s accusing them. But if she doesn’t confront them, she’ll never really know who she is.

But when Janie finally confronts her parents, she learns more than she bargained for. And that learning will cause Janie to give up everything and everyone she knows.

Will Janie have to trade in her comfortable life to go live with a family she doesn’t know or want to know?

The Face on the Milk Carton, written by author Caroline B. Cooney, is the first in the Janie Johnson series.

First and foremost, I just want to say this: I fully understand that The Face on the Milk Carton is a beloved book, and the start of a beloved series.

The Face on the Milk Carton hints at several genres. There’s the element of mystery seamlessly weaved into raw emotion. Who is Janie Johnson, is that even her real name? Who kidnapped her, and why?  What will her become of her life if she’s forced to move in with her biological family?

Then there’s a splash of romance. Janie, is head over heels for neighbor and best friend Reeve, and when he reciprocates those feelings she’s practically over the moon. While their romance is innocent, the feelings are honest. Readers will feel the chemistry bubbling between them.

And above all things, The Face on the Milk Carton is realistic. So real that readers will be left wondering what they would do if they were in Janie’s shoes, would they react the same way?  Because this book is so realistic, emotions run rampant on the pages.

Beyond the blending of different genres, Cooney’s The Face on the Milk Carton is a quick read that is extremely well written. Cooney’s writing truly is the shining star, and the main reason why I kept with the book. Her way with words makes readers interested and invested.

Now, knowing this is a beloved book, I didn’t love it as much as others out there. Mainly because I was left frustrated — with main character Janie, who I found to be not as strong as I would have liked her to be.

I found her to be whiny and a bit self-absorbed. But keeping in mind her young age, and the situation she has found herself in, is understandable.  As an adult if I were placed in the same situation as Janie, yeah, I’d be whiny and self-absorbed too.But still, those qualities, no matter how understandable they were, didn’t make her a likable character.

And beyond taking issue with main character Janie, I was frustrated by the fact that I was left feeling very much on the fence about this. I really enjoyed the writing. And thought the plot line was unique and thought-provoking. But what I loved most about the book as a whole wasn’t enough to make me truly love this book. In the end, I feel very “meh” about the book.

Either way, The Face on the Milk Carton kept me interested enough to want to find out what happened to Janie, to Reeve, to the Johnson family after it was discovered Janie was, in fact, kidnapped.

The Face on the Milk Carton is a read that will pique curiosity, but ultimately will not answer all the questions that pop up. However, I’m sure, being that that this is the first in a series that those questions will eventually be answered. At least for those who decide to stay vested in it.