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

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Chapter 8 Summary

At dinner, Janie cannot eat. Her mother has cooked a nice meal, pot roast and mashed potatoes, but Janie does not touch it. Her mother offers soup, but Janie—intending to wound—snaps that she would rather eat at McDonald’s. Mr. Johnson makes a joke of this, but Janie can tell that her rudeness has upset her parents.

Although her parents make a deliberate effort to be nice and cheerful during dinner, Janie ignores them. She obsesses about the kidnapping. She considers taking out an ad in a New Jersey newspaper, asking for information about Jennie Spring. As soon as she has this idea, she dismisses it, reasoning that it would be terrible of her to get Jennie’s parents’ hopes up when she does not plan to call them.

By now Janie is fairly sure that she is Jennie Spring, a child stolen from a different family. However, she loves the parents she has, and she does not want another set. She wants her own life, the normal one she lived before the milk carton discovery. Does it make her a bad person to feel this way, when some unknown family is out there waiting and wondering?

Janie is rude to her parents until dinner is over, and then she escapes to her room. There she has the longest and clearest daymare she has had. In it, she hears her child-self speaking, asking her mommy to buy her something. Her mother snaps at her, calling her Jennie and saying that a little girl does not need a leather handbag. She, Jennie, runs off and sits on a stool at an ice cream counter. There a woman buys her a sundae and offers to take her for a ride.

When Janie snaps out of the daymare, she wonders who the woman was who offered her the ride. Mrs. Johnson, the mother she has known all her life? Some stranger, perhaps a former wife of her father? She cannot tell—but now she feels certain that Jennie was once her own name. Just then, Janie’s dad comes in to ask what is wrong. Janie pretends nothing is wrong, but her father refuses to accept her answer. He points out that she has been acting distant and rude. Their conversation turns into a screaming argument. Janie feels shaken by the experience.

The following morning, Janie goes to school early for the Honors Breakfast—a meal of jelly doughnuts served to honor roll students every semester. Somewhat wryly, Janie reflects that although the breakfast is stupid, good students get so little attention in general they have to take what they can get.

To her surprise, Reeve is at the breakfast. She has noticed him holding school books a few times of late, and she asks why he did not say anything about making the honor roll. He explains that he did not know if he was capable of the feat because he never worked hard in school until this semester. The school principal interjects, starting to say that Reeve is becoming just like his older siblings; Janie knows what he is...

(The entire section is 790 words.)