Review: The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney

Publication Date: January 1, 1990

Janie Johnson was looking at the bottom of a milk carton during lunch. There were always pictures of kids who had gone missing or been kidnapped. But she never expected to see her picture on one of these milk cartons.

Suddenly, Janie doesn't know what to think anymore. Had she been kidnapped? She couldn't be, not when her parents were the most loving people she had ever known. But if she wasn't kidnapped, why was her picture on this milk carton? Was she born to another family? Has her life been an elaborate lie?


Rating: 3 stars

I went into this knowing that because it was published so many years ago, the writing style would probably be really different. Still, because the plot intrigued me, I wanted to read it and see how it turned out.

The mystery ended up being WAY below my reading level and too simple for my taste. Having read mystery books for the majority of my childhood, I found this to be subpar to even the Famous Five or Nancy Drew. That might be my fault for expecting something more complicated, but it was my experience. I had figured out the ending within the first 30 pages and felt like it was a waste of time for me to read the rest of the book when I already knew how it would end. As I told my sister, the only way I would have been surprised is if I had been wrong. From what I understand though, the mystery might get more complicated in the following books.

Most of the book is spent in Janie's head as she tries to figure out what to do. That's fairly normal for a mystery book, but the problem I had is that she doesn't really do anything. To me, she spent 90% of the book flip-flopping between decisions without committing to anything. One moment, she wants Decision A, the next, she wants Decision B. It was frustrating to read about because we spend far too much time in that phase.

There's also a plot device that's supposed to make us wonder if Janie's parents are being truthful or not, but really, the reader can see right through that plot device. It wasn't hard for me figure everything out without the constant clues to the ending, which only made it more frustrating that we don't see the plot progressing.

The romance in this book felt awkward too, mostly because it was clear that Janie was barely invested in it. It also came out of nowhere as there was very little reasoning as to why they liked each other. To me, the romance was a poorly-executed side plot that did little to add to the story. And honestly, I thought he deserved better than her.


What I didn't expect was to be annoyed by Janie. There have been mixed reviews about this book, mostly revolving around Janie as a main character and the choices she makes. And while I can't say that I hate her, I did find her to be incredibly annoying. She didn't feel like a high-school student, but rather a middle-schooler. Her actions and thoughts felt very immature and frustrating because she could never make a decision.

3 stars. I still gave it three stars because I didn't hate the book. I don't really have many good things to say about it, but I do want to continue with the series to see how it turns out. The preview chapters of the sequel have me interested enough to want to continue with the series.

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