Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

InThe Face on the Milk Carton, Caroline B. Cooney tells Janie Johnson’s story from the limited omniscient point of view. This straightforward approach allows Cooney to focus on Janie, to give the reader access to Janie’s thoughts, and to provide glimpses of the flashbacks that occur in Janie’s mind as she remembers her life before the age of three.

The protagonist is a high school sophomore who, thinking her life is dull, seeks to add “personality” by changing the spelling of her name from “Jane” to “Janie.” Eating lunch in the school cafeteria with her friends, she looks at a milk carton and sees a photograph of herself when she was three years old. The name beneath the picture, however, is Jennie Spring, and the information states that she was reported missing by a family in New Jersey.

Although she loves the Johnsons, Janie begins to gather clues about her early life. Her mother acts strangely when Janie needs her birth certificate to get a driver’s license and passport. There is also the absence of any baby pictures of Janie. Finally, in an attic trunk, she finds the polka-dot dress shown in the missing person photograph.

When Janie confronts the Johnsons, they tell her that rather than being their daughter, she is their granddaughter. Their daughter Hannah, who was brainwashed by a cult, came home one day with her own daughter, young Janie. When Hannah left to rejoin the cult, she left Janie...

(The entire section is 511 words.)