The Face on the Milk Carton

by Caroline B. Cooney, Caroline Bruce

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Chapter 11 Summary

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It takes two hours to drive from Connecticut to New Jersey. Reeve concentrates on the road while Janie studies the map to find the shopping mall where Jennie Spring was kidnapped. On the road, Janie tells him everything, but he has trouble believing it. He has known Janie’s parents most of his life, and he cannot imagine that they are criminals.

During the drive, Reeve wonders aloud what their parents will think about the two of them skipping school together. He suspects that the adults will accuse Reeve and Janie of going to a hotel or a beach somewhere to have sex. Janie has no room in her mind to worry about this. She is developing a bad headache, and it is all she can do to navigate. She stays silent, speaking only to tell Reeve where to turn.

To break the silence, Reeve tells Janie about his family. He explains that his two older sisters grew up in a sort of war with each other to see who could earn the best grades and win the most awards. His brother, caught between the two girls in age, tried to keep up as well as he could. Reeve, by far the youngest, never wanted anything to do with his siblings' academic rivalry.

Hearing this, Janie reflects that she grew up next door to this family, but she had known nothing of what was going on in their home. She thinks people really don't notice anything except their own problems. Janie’s life has been falling apart lately, and her friends have no idea. Janie believes she is being a bad friend to Reeve now, focusing on herself when he has just poured his heart out to her. Inwardly, she decides that she is a bad person:

Because a good person, a good daughter...would have remembered her real parents...She wouldn’t just trade them in. And certainly not for an ice cream sundae.

Reeve asks Janie what she plans to do if she finds the Spring family. Janie has only thought about finding the ice cream shop, and she does not know what to do about the Springs. Reeve points out that they will call the police if she speaks to them. If that happens, Janie’s whole life will change.

After thinking it over, Janie decides to look up the Springs’ address and go see their house. She does not want to speak to them; she only wants to see them. Reeve and Janie drive to the right place, and they watch as three red-haired boys arrive home from school. Reeve catches a glimpse of a red-haired woman as well. This stuns him into silence for a moment. Now, for the first time, he seems to consider the possibility that Janie’s story could be true. However, he still does not want to accept it.

Through the course of the day, Janie has realized that Reeve loves her. Although he is upset by her unwillingness to talk to him and clearly confused by the way her interest in him fades when she is thinking about her problems, his feelings for her remain strong. On the way home, he says that it is not too late for them to go to a hotel. Their parents will suspect it anyway, so they might as well.

Janie is almost certain that she loves Reeve as much as he loves her, but she is so overwrought that she has no energy to spare for romance. The normal teenager in her, the part that is not caught up in a nightmare about kidnapping, would like to accept Reeve’s suggestion. As it is, she just offers a feeble refusal and lapses back into silence.

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Chapter 12 Summary