Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Face on the Milk Carton

The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney, 1990.

My first review, so please bear with me!

I've been meaning to read The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney forever, and can't really tell you why I haven't. It's the required summer reading book for 8th graders in the town I work in and I have tons of extra copies in my office, so availability wasn't the problem. The story sounded interesting enough--a girl spies a picture of herself at 3 on a milk carton, and the perfect life she'd been living in begins to unravel as she seeks to learn the truth about her early childhood.

I think one of the reasons I hesitated so long is because I know that there are 3 other books that follow this one. Knowing that in advance kind of ruins the book for me--I know not everything will be cleared up by the end of FOMC, which means I'd have to commit to reading the whole quartet. While I have nothing against reading a complete series, if I don't like the first book, it's kind of a chore to read the rest. (But I must, because I don't like loose ends!) Basically, I was afraid I wouldn't love it, but would be obligated to continue reading.

But, FOMC was available as an eBook on my library's virtual branch and I was very anxious to try that service out, so I ordered and downloaded it. I can only "check out" titles for 2 weeks, so I kind of forced myself into the commitment, and finally read it.

I have to say that my first instincts are correct. I now have to finish all the other books. FOMC had an ending, sure, but knowing there's more means I have to keep going. I want to compare my eBook with a physical copy, because there were a lot of grammatical and typographical errors on my nook.

Anway, the story itself is straightforward. We meet Janie Johnson at 15. She has a lovely home life, with parents who dote on her, is surrounded by friends, and basically wants for nothing. She spends time, though, toying with the idea of changing the spelling of her first and/or last names to give herself more of an identity.

At lunch one day, she happens to take a swig of her friend's milk (Janie's lactose intolerant), she sees a picture on the side of the milk carton. It's an ordinary picture of the "Have You Seen This Child?" variety, an ordinary three year old wearing an ordinary dress--but Janie recognizes herself in that picture.

This revelation sends Janie into spirals of depression and indecision. Did her parents--a local soccer coach and his committee-attending wife--ruthlessly kidnap her twelve years ago? Bit by bit, Janie's memory of that time resurfaces, leaving her with more questions--why did she willingly leave her family behind? What does  that say about her? Who can she trust with this secret? If she tells her parents, and she's wrong, it will cush her parents. If she says nothing, and she's right, an entire family in New Jersey has been holding out hope for twelve years that Jennie (as she was known) will be returned to them. If she's right and she tells, will she be forced to leave the parents who love her and be returned to this family she can barely remember?

It was an intriguing story, I'll grant you that. However, Janie's indecision began to grate on me after a while. Will she tell, won't she tell? How many people can she alienate while she deliberates? I'm curious to learn why this book is repeatedly chosen as the required 8th grade summer reading.

And now I have to read the rest of the series to find out what happens! The saga continues with Whatever Happened to Janie?, The Voice on the Radio, and What Janie Found.

Enjoy your reading!

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