The Face on the Milk Carton

by Caroline B. Cooney, Caroline Bruce

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Chapter 10 Summary

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Janie’s relief lasts until sometime in the night. She wakes up from a nightmare and realizes, all at once, that her parents’ story makes no sense. It explains the box marked H upstairs in the attic, but it does not explain the picture on the milk carton, the name Jennie Spring, or the daymares. The daymares are filled with ice cream, shopping malls, and people who seem like family. There is nothing in them that meshes with her parents' description of Hannah's cult.

Above all, Janie is bothered by the dress in the trunk upstairs. It is a concrete object, undeniably real—and definitely the dress from the milk carton. She lies awake, slowly forming a sickening suspicion. Could her parents have gone crazy after losing their daughter? Could they have driven to a New Jersey shopping mall and kidnapped a new girl to take Hannah's place? Perhaps Mrs. Johnson is the woman from the ice cream parlor who offered little Jennie a ride.

Maybe Janie’s parents really are kidnappers. If so, she should confront them—but she feels conflicted. It is possible that she is wrong. It is also possible that her parents have blocked out their memories of the kidnapping. No matter what, Janie does not want to give up the life she has always known. Even if her parents are criminals, they love her and she loves them.

By morning, Janie is exhausted. During breakfast, she experiences multiple daymares, little fuzzy memories of a big family with many children. These memories continually fail to match the story about the cult. Her parents hover over her, asking several times if she is all right and if she has any questions. As it happens, Janie has many questions, but she does not ask because she is afraid of the answers. She pretends to be fine. She feels that she needs to get out of her house; she insists on going to school as usual.

It is raining, and Reeve normally drives Janie to school on wet days. When she gets into his jeep, he comments that she looks terrible. As they banter about cutting school, Janie tells him to get on the highway and drive south. She is normally a rule-follower, so he assumes at first that she is joking. He does as she asks, but he clearly expects her to tell him to turn around. She does not. Instead, she asks him to drive to New Jersey.

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Chapter 9 Summary


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