The Face on the Milk Carton Chapter 12 Summary
by Caroline B. Cooney, Caroline Bruce

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Chapter 12 Summary

Reeve turns off the highway and parks in front of a cheap hotel. Janie protests but goes inside with him anyway. He uses his father’s credit card to pay for a room. When it is Janie’s turn to sign the registry, she hesitates, wondering whether to call herself Johnson or Javensen or Spring. Eventually she signs Jane Johnson. The hotel clerk sarcastically tells her that she has a bad imagination. Reeve seems on the point of punching the man, but he holds himself back.

Before they go to the room, Janie says again that she cannot do what Reeve wants. This time, Reeve accepts her refusal. He stops and stares at the dingy surroundings, and Janie thinks that she would have said yes if not for the awful setting. She says, “When we do it for real, Reeve, it won’t be like this.” Reeve, who has seemed utterly depressed, brightens at the mention of the word when. He pulls her close to him and kisses her. She kisses him back and soon finds herself wishing that she had agreed to go further.

It is getting late. Reeve and Janie both know that their parents are likely to call the police if they do not get home soon. They discuss the matter of the hotel charge on Reeve’s father’s credit card, but there is nothing to do about it now. They are too exhausted to worry about it anyway.

As he drives into their hometown, Reeve suddenly says, “Your parents have been my parents, too. They raised me as much as my own.” Even now, with all the evidence in front of him, he cannot believe that Janie’s sweet, loving parents are criminals. He begs Janie to wait for an explanation before deciding that they are guilty.

Janie wants to do what Reeve asks. She wants to be a good daughter to the parents she has known all her life. Unfortunately, she is doing a terrible job of it. Just last night, she had promised them that she would never leave them in the way Hannah did. Twelve hours later, she had gone searching for a phantom family.

When Reeve drives up their street, Janie sees all the lights on in both his house and hers. Reeve parks the jeep, and he and Janie just sit there, afraid to go inside. They are spared the effort. Two sets of parents, his and hers, come running outside, screaming.