The Face on the Milk Carton Questions and Answers
by Caroline B. Cooney, Caroline Bruce

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How did Janie change throughout the story?

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In The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney, the protagonist Janie Johnson changes throughout the story, becoming more adult, more analytical in her thinking, and taking her carefree suburban life less for granted. One day, while having lunch in the school cafeteria with her friends, she sees the face of a small girl on the milk carton, and the caption indicates that the girl was kidnapped many years earlier. Janie recognizes herself and cannot understand how this can be. Her parents are loving people who are upright members of their community. They give back in the form of coaching the local boys’ sports team and spending days doing volunteer work at the local hospital. Janie is tormented with thoughts about her parents. How could people like this have kidnapped a child?

Janie is a typical fifteen-year-old when the book begins. By the end of the story, she has had to deal with these complex questions about her history and about her parents. She goes through many stages as she thinks that her parents are hiding things from her. Ultimately, she realizes that she must take the adult approach and confront her parents with her questions in order to get at the truth. At this point, Janie has become a more mature person who can have a difficult conversation with the people she loves.

While it is typical for most teenagers at some point during their teenage years to question their parents and question conventional thinking, Janie’s dilemma is much more complex. She is not merely questioning why her parents will not allow her to get her learner’s permit so that she can drive: she is questioning whether they could be liars and kidnappers.

She also realizes by the end of the novel how fortunate she is to have been raised in a wonderful community with parents who are progressive and love her as much as they do. She does not take any of it for granted anymore, because she knows that it was a trick of fate that changed her life. Her emotions are deeper by the end of the book, allowing her to have a more mature relationship with her parents as well as her boyfriend.

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