The Face on the Milk Carton

by Caroline B. Cooney, Caroline Bruce

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Chapter 15 Summary

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As autumn comes to a close, Janie finds a new balance. She takes the polka dot dress out of Hannah’s trunk and hangs it in her closet. Every morning and every evening, she touches it to remind herself. She also keeps writing in the diary, telling her story—but never sending it to the Springs.

One weekend morning, Reeve comes over to Janie’s house for breakfast and then takes her out for a drive. Just before they leave, Janie’s notebook falls open to reveal the milk carton she keeps hidden inside. She snaps it shut and apologizes, but her parents look suspicious. She takes the notebook up to her room before leaving the house.

Although Janie’s life has returned to normal, more or less, she still thinks about the kidnapping a great deal. On the drive, Reeve talks about his family, but she interrupts to tell him that she looked up the kidnapping in the New York Times. When he falls silent, she realizes that he thought she was listening to him. She muses that people all want to be the center of attention. In fact, this is the very feeling that led Janie, at age three, to accept a ride from a woman who paid attention to her after her own busy mother briefly brushed her off.

Janie tries to assure Reeve that she cares more about him than about her own dark past. “You’re the light of my life,” she says, fully expecting him to scoff at her sappiness. Instead he seems pleased. They stop at a restaurant and order Cokes, and then they go to a waterfall to spend some romantic time together.

While kissing, Janie and Reeve pause for a moment. Reeve appears to gather his courage—and then he admits that he told Janie’s story to his sister Lizzie, the one who is in law school. Janie screams at him, but he stays calm. He says that Janie will lose her mind if she does not do something about the kidnapping.

Reeve explains that Lizzie has a theory. She thinks it was Hannah, not the elder Johnsons, who kidnapped Jennie Spring. As soon as Janie hears this idea, she relaxes somewhat. It is a huge relief, the idea that her parents are not evil criminals. Reeve says that Hannah probably was not evil either; she was a scared escapee from a cult who needed human companionship and found it in a little girl she met at a shopping mall.

Janie considers how it would feel to admit publicly that she was kidnapped by the daughter of the people she has always believed to be her parents. She is terrified by the idea. Reeve agrees. He says that Lizzie thinks it would be better to handle the matter quietly, with her help as a legal adviser. Janie agrees to consider this. She and Reeve begin to kiss again, but Janie struggles to focus on her boyfriend. She feels too guilty to forget about the Springs’ lost daughter.

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