I was really excited when I first saw this book. The overall premise of it just looked so interesting. What if you grew up with a loving family, but then you found out that your parents kidnapped you? What would you do if you realized that your parents stole you away from a home that you can’t even remember?
This is Janie Johnson’s story. The milk cartons sold in her school cafeteria have always had pictures of missing children on the back, and Janie and her friends have never really paid attention. Then one day, Janie looks at the missing child’s picture, and sees herself from twelve years ago staring back at her.
I thought this was a really great idea for a book. What would you do in this situation? How would you react to your entire life being a lie?
Despite this wonderful springboard, I think the overall execution of the book wasn’t very good. I didn’t really like Caroline B. Cooney’s writing style, and I came across two or three typing errors in the novel. “Don’t let’s do that” being the worst of them. I try not to be the “grammar police,” but when you can’t even understand what was meant to be said, there’s a problem.
I also didn’t sympathize with Janie at all. She’s a bit bratty, and a very stereotypical teenager, plotting pranks on the freshman classes, and dreaming about senior boys, even though she’s only a sophomore. I also hated the way she didn’t like her name, and tried to change it to “Jayyne Jonstone” instead of Janie Johnson. Why can’t you just be happy with the name you are given? Her friends’ names are Adair O’Dell and Sarah-Charlotte Sherwood, which are “oh-so-interesting-tongue-twisters.” While apparently Johnson is “hardly a name at all and more like a page out of the phone book.” Cooney also spells Johnson incorrectly on the page 3 of the book! (Johnston instead of Johnson.) I don’t understand why she has such a problem with her name. Nor do I understand why “Jayyne Johnstone” so much sexier. Yes, SEXIER is used to describe this name. It sounds like a hooker name, if you ask me.
I really didn’t like Janie’s mother. She felt very false and superficial. Far too artificial and.. I can’t exactly find the right word, but fake comes to mind first. Also, it seemed like every other sentence she and Janie were “giggling.” Not laughing, not chuckling, giggling. I probably saw this word a hundred times in this book, and it left me wondering the size of Cooney’s vocabulary, and left me hoping that I would never see the word again.
Janie’s father felt superficial as well, though not as much as her mother. He was mostly flaky. Janie would ask for something (like her driving lessons) and he would say “absolutely not,” and her mother would say “of course!” and he just goes “oh, all right,” like they had this huge discussion about it and her pros outweighed his cons, and he’s really into the fact that they were so prepared to argue their case.
There were also some major inconsistencies. Janie is lactose intolerant, and yet she frequently “decides” to drink milk despite this, with no adverse effects. Her parents tell her she can no longer have milk or ice cream, yet almost every meal they eat in the story includes some kind of dairy, ice cream makes multiple appearances, with pizza being Janie’s go-to favorite. I suppose her allergy may not be extreme, but still, why even mention it if she’s just going to disregard it?
I also didn’t like the resolution. I don’t like the story of what actually happened to Janie. It just seems a little far-fetched, and I had a hard time believing it. More about that in the spoiler section.
I really wanted to like Reeve. But he was such a stereotypical teenage boy. He doesn’t like Janie for her personality, he likes her for her looks. All he wants to do is have sex. He can’t control his teenage urges, despite the fact that Janie is going through the hardest time of her life. He could have been such a good character, but Cooney just had to make him into this sexually charged adolescent that couldn’t stand the idea of having a conversation with Janie without using the situation to get her into bed with him.
Overall, this book was just kind of ok. It wasn’t the best writing I’ve ever read, and the story was not executed nearly as well as it could have been, but I still read it in one sitting, and I still enjoyed it. It was still entertaining, despite some glaring plot holes.
I gave THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON by Caroline B. Cooney 3 out of 5 stars.
THE NEXT PART OF THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE SPOILED FOR ANY EVENTS THAT OCCUR IN THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON, PLEASE STOP READING NOW.
Ok. So the first thing I want to start off with is, why did Janie never mention the age of her parents? When she finds out that they are her GRANDPARENTS, she makes no statement of, “It makes sense now, I always wondered why they had me so late in life, why they are old enough to have a nearly-grown GRANDDAUGHTER instead of a nearly grown daughter.” I mean, they have to be older than the average parent of a teenage daughter, right?
Also, Janie’s parents didn’t even ask Hannah if Janie was hers?? They just ASSUMED? Even when they knew that their daughter was unstable, and even though Janie looks nothing like them or Hannah? How did that happen?
There are just too many inconsistencies. And WHY did Reeve have to constantly try to get Janie to a motel for some spontaneous sex when clearly they’re both virgins? Especially at this point in Janie’s life when she doesn’t know who she is, or what she’s going to do about her real parents.
I also thought the cliff-hanger was a little annoying. I don’t know if I’ll be continuing on with this series, simply because I don’t feel invested enough to find out (as the next book title says) WHATEVER HAPPENED TO JANIE? Is it grammatically correct to have “whatever” be one word in that title? It doesn’t look right to me.