Caroline B. Cooney's The Face on the Milk Carton tells the story of Janie Johnson, a fifteen-year-old girl who discovers she was kidnapped upon finding her photo on the Missing Child section on a milk carton. She recognizes her picture because of her curly, red hair.
Janie's best friend, Sarah-Charlotte Sherwood, is the owner of the milk carton upon which Janie sees her face. Janie misses Sarah-Charlotte when she is relocated to her birth parents' home, but Sarah-Charlotte lacks an inherent ability to deal with Janie's complicated problems.
Hannah Johnson kidnapped Janie when the child was three years old, but as a member of a cult, she was ill-equipped to care for the child. She left Janie with her parents, Miranda and Frank Johnson, whom Janie believed were her own parents. Miranda tutors students in English, while Frank is a soccer coach. They have great love for Janie and claim they did not know she was kidnapped and instead believed she was Hannah's daughter. Janie also believes this story when Miranda tells it to her.
The boy next door, Reeve Shields, is very close to Janie, acting as both a best friend and a boyfriend. Janie tells him about her alleged kidnapping early on, and they are sad to be separated by her move. Janie also has a good relationship with Reeve's sister, Lizzie Shields.
As the book progresses, Janie is reunited with the Spring family, from whom Janie was kidnapped as a young child.