Book Review: The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney

13536360 2Title: The Face on the Milk Carton
Author: Caroline B. Cooney
Series: Janie Johnson, #1
Publication Date: 1990
Genres: Fiction > Young Adult > Mystery
My Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
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No one ever really paid close attention to the faces of the missing children on the milk cartons. But as Janie Johnson glanced at the face of the ordinary little girl with her hair in tight pigtails, wearing a dress with a narrow white collar–a three-year-old who had been kidnapped twelve years before from a shopping mall in New Jersey–she felt overcome with shock. She recognized that little girl–it was she. How could it possibly be true? Janie can’t believe that her loving parents kidnapped her, but as she begins to piece things together, nothing makes sense. Something is terribly wrong. Are Mr. and Mrs. Johnson really her parents? And if not, who is Janie Johnson, and what really happened?

Overview:

The premise of this book was so intriguing — a girl sees a photo of herself on a milk carton and begins to wonder if she was kidnapped by the parents that she knows as her own. I’ve seen this plotline done before, but it’s not too overdone, so I was interested. Unfortunately, this book was such a disappointment to me.

This review contains minor spoilers.

Good:

  • If I’m honest, there’s not much good about this book except the general concept. Sorry, not sorry.

Bad:

  • The writing is terrible, which is why I gave this book one star instead of two. Cooney is not able to smoothly or realistically take her readers through the story without constantly jolting them out of the storyline with her awkward phrasing.
  • The interactions between the characters, the dialogue between them, and their motivations are extremely awkward and unrealistic.
  • Janie is a pretty annoying character and repeatedly mentions how she feels guilty for letting herself be kidnapped.
  • Several subplots were introduced seemingly at random to the point where I began to wonder if I’d missed something (e.g. the romance introduced halfway through was severely underdeveloped).
  • The ending came so abruptly that I was wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be a cliffhanger for the next book, or if it was supposed to insinuate a resolution. Either way, it didn’t work for me.

Final Thoughts:

I had high hopes for this book and the rest of the Janie Johnson series, but I’m sorely disappointed that I won’t be continuing on with any more of Cooney’s books.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney

  1. I’m intrigued by your review because I remember reading this book as a kid, and I don’t think I would’ve had anything negative to say about it. It was super memorable to me — and scary! I feel like it had a big emotional impact on me regardless of any flaws. I’m curious what I’d think now, as an adult.

    Liked by 1 person

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