What’s it all about?:
The face on the milk carton looks like an ordinary little girl: hair in tight pigtails, a dress with a narrow white collar, a three-year-old who was kidnapped more than twelve years ago from a shopping mall in New Jersey.
As fifteen-year-old Janie Johnson stares at the milk carton, she feels overcome with shock. She knows that little girl is she. But how could it be true?
Janie can’t believe that her loving parents kidnapped her, until she begins to piece together clues that don’t make sense. Why are there no pictures of Janie before she was four? Her parents have always said they didn’t have a camera. Now that explanation sounds feeble. Something is terribly wrong, and Janie is afraid to find out what happened more than twelve years ago.
In this gripping page-turner, the reader will unravel — as Janie does — the twisted events that changed the lives of two families forever.
What did I think?:
Chrissi and I always enjoy picking our Kid Lit list for the year ahead, we’re usually super organised and do it about November time, picking six books each so that we both get a chance to read things we’re excited about/things that bring back happy memories. Caroline B. Cooney is one of those authors for both of us. Although we’ve never read The Face On The Milk Carton before, we have wonderful memories about the author mainly connected with her Point Horror books, of which we’ve read a few, namely Freeze Tag, The Cheerleader and The Perfume. We were OBSESSED with Point Horror as young teenagers and as we lived in a British army base in Germany for the majority of the time, they were quite hard to get hold of. Back in those days there was no Amazon (haha!) and we lived out in the country with a shopping centre about 40 minutes drive away which had a very limited supply of books and a small school library. This is just one of the very many reasons why we appreciate the easy availability of books nowadays!
Caroline B. Cooney, author of The Face On The Milk Carton.
Sadly, I found myself slightly disappointed by The Face On The Milk Carton. I don’t know what it was, perhaps it’s an age thing and her young adult fiction doesn’t read as well when I’m a grown adult? Maybe. Or perhaps it’s her Point Horror alone that gives me that warm, nostalgic feeling? Who knows. It follows a teenage girl called Janie Johnson who looks at a milk carton one day at school on lunch break with her friends and recognises her own childhood face on the carton. Her life is instantly set into turmoil as she assumes that she must have been kidnapped from her “birth parents,” who are still desperately looking for her. The trouble is, Janie can’t remember anything and has a strong, loving relationship with her “current” parents who are mostly all she can remember. As Janie begins to investigate the picture on the milk carton she begins to realise a few foggy memories of a strange kitchen, other children and an ice cream parlour. Has she really been kidnapped? Why? Piece by piece, the clues start to come together in the most unexpected way.
Our female lead, Janie Johnson finds her childhood photograph on a milk carton similar to the above image.
Let me just start by saying that if I read this book as a young teenager, I would probably absolutely love it. It is purely reading it as an adult and rolling my eyes at the dramatics of teenage angst that is the problem here, I promise! The premise for the novel is brilliant, suddenly finding out as a teenager your parents aren’t who you expected them to be? There’s definitely be dark points of my adolescence where I’ve ashamedly wished for a different parent or wondered if I was adopted but luckily these were only fleeting as I happen to have (in my opinion of course!) the world’s most wonderful mother!
So yes, initially I was quite gripped by the mystery behind Janie’s parentage and was keen to find out what was going on as the narrative continued. Unfortunately it just didn’t really continue the way I had pictured it in my head. It’s obviously a horrific thing to find out as a teenager and I really felt for Janie as she discovered her perfect parents might not be so perfect after all but there was so much drama. It became positively melodramatic as she wanted to find out what was going on, came close to confronting the situation then backed off and decided to stick with what she knew i.e. the parents that had raised her. Fair enough, you might think, that’s a normal response, right? But this happened over and over again and just became too repetitive for me. I feel like the author could have used her time better by delving deeper into the emotions that Janie was experiencing but it just seemed to be either one level or the other – the extreme reaction then just….nothing!
Saying that, I would recommend this book for young adults with a note for parents that there is a bit of tame sexual content so perhaps not suitable for very young children. It’s an interesting little mystery with relatable characters and a plot that could definitely be a conversation starter between friends and family.
For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please see her blog HERE.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
COMING UP IN JULY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens.