The Face on the Milk Carton

by Caroline B. Cooney, Caroline Bruce

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How did Janie feel about her appearance when she compared herself to her girlfriends in The Face on the Milk Carton?

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Janie is not happy about her looks; when she compares herself to her girlfriends, she feels inferior. Actually, Janie has "fabulous hair: a wild, chaotic mane of red curls glinting gold." Most of her friends think this is an asset; Sarah-Charlotte tells her, "that is serious hair." Janie wishes she could keep her hair neat, like Sarah-Charlotte, but, as Sarah-Charlotte points out, it is easier for her because she has "approximately five hundred thousand fewer hairs" than Janie does. Boys occasionally tease Janie about her hair too. When she blushes, Pete says, "You're cute when your face matches you hair."

Another thing Janie does not like about her appearance is her size. She feels younger than her age; "she had grown later, and grown less," than the other kids in her class. While most of her friends are trying to bcome "sophisticated and articulate," Janie just feels small. Her parents say she is "cute," but Janie thinks that "cute (is) for toddlers and kittens."

Janie's dissatisfaction with her looks is a symptom of her inability to determine her own identity; she has not yet accepted herself for who she is. Her ambivalence about her appearance goes along with her unhappiness with her name. Janie loves her girlfriends' names - Adair and Sarah-Charlotte and Katrina. She thinks their names are "wonderful, tongue-twisting, memorable names," while her name, Jane Johnson, is boring and plain, "hardly a name at all; more like a page out of the phone book." In her search for self, she has changed her name a number of times, to make it more distinctive and interesting in her eyes. Among other things, she has added a "y" to her first name to make it "Jayne," and taken the "h" out of Johnson and added a "t" and an "e" to make it "Jonstone," which seems to her to be an improvement to her real name, at least for awhile (Chapter 1).

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