The Face on the Milk Carton

by Caroline B. Cooney, Caroline Bruce

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Chapter 2 Summary

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For the rest of the school day, Janie's mind stays stuck on the picture on the milk carton. How could she have been kidnapped? It does not seem possible. She has two loving parents and a normal life, but she is sure that she is the girl in the picture. It makes no sense.

Janie goes through the motions of the school day, taking notes and answering questions—but all the time, she wonders if she is going insane. Perhaps it is a side effect of her lactose intolerance. Maybe drinking the milk drove her mad. The school day ends, and her body moves slowly as she packs up her things. By the time she gets outside into the rain, her bus is gone.

Feeling dizzy and confused, Janie stands on the sidewalk in the downpour. She watches a jeep approach. It is aimed straight for her, but she is feeling so shell-shocked that it does not even occur to her to step out of the way. The jeep stops in time, and the driver opens the passenger door. It is Reeve, her neighbor. He tells her to get in out of the rain.

Reeve loves storms and floods, so he suggests driving down to the water to see if it is rising. Janie agrees. As he drives, she flattens out the milk carton, which she has kept from lunch, and clips it inside her notebook. Reeve comments that this looks like an interesting hobby. Janie does not explain.

Stopping at a spot called the Scenic Overlook, Reeve confides that he feels upset about being the only unintelligent kid in his family. His mother recently confided to Janie’s parents that she is proud of her three older children and that “three out of four isn’t bad.” Janie comforts him and tells him that his mother was out of line.

As Reeve talks about his problems, Janie’s mind frequently returns to the picture on the milk carton. She sneaks a peek at it and reads the name underneath: Jennie Spring. The description says that Jennie was taken from a shopping mall in New Jersey. It also lists a birth date that would make her somewhat younger than Janie. Janie knows nothing about New Jersey, but she has always been smaller and less sophisticated than her friends. Could this be because she is younger?

Reeve invites Janie out for ice cream. She feels too worried to go home, so she agrees to join him in spite of her lactose intolerance. As they sit down to eat, she has a sudden, vivid flashback of being a little girl and wearing the polka dot dress that was pictured on the milk carton. In the memory, she is sitting on a stool, eating an ice cream sundae with a woman. She steals the cherry off of the woman’s ice cream, and they both laugh. The woman offers her a ride, and she agrees.

When Janie’s mind returns to the present, Reeve is asking if she is okay. She is shaking all over, feeling dizzy and strange. He asks if she is sick, and Janie says that she is all right. However, she suggests that she should not eat her ice cream. Reeve asks the waitress to put the sundaes in to-go containers, and the woman tells him that this will make a mess. “The top will be on the bottom,” she says. Janie dully reflects that this is exactly how she feels.

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Chapter 1 Summary

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Chapter 3 Summary