Wednesday, February 20, 2013

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

Summary: No one ever really paid close attention to the faces of the missing children on the milk cartons. But as Janie Johnson glanced at the face of the ordinary little girl with her hair in tight pigtails, wearing a dress with a narrow white collar--a three-year-old who had been kidnapped twelve years before from a shopping mall in New Jersey--she felt overcome with shock. She recognized that little girl--it was she. How could it possibly be true?

Janie can't believe that her loving parents kidnapped her, but as she begins to piece things together, nothing makes sense. Something is terribly wrong. Are Mr. and Mrs. Johnson really Janie's parents? And if not, who is Janie Johnson, and what really happened?

Kim's Review: When I first opened this book, I was excited to read it. It seemed like a really interesting concept, and I wanted to know how it ended. However, it did not live up to my expectations at all. It's a little saddening, because the idea is really great and has a lot of potential, but the author ruined it pretty quickly. Her explanation of Janie's kidnapping is mediocre and just...strange. The writing was good but not great, and there were a bunch of grammatical errors that I'm surprised the editor didn't pick up.

The main character, Janie, is annoying. After the first twenty pages or so, the entire novel is just her going "Oh, I'm going to go find my real parents in New Jersey...wait, no I'm not. Yes I am. Should I do it? Nah, I'm not going to." I was tempted to just skip to the chapter to find out how it ended. (Also, students spontaneously broke out in song not just once, but twice. Seriously, what kind of high school did this author go to?) Janie's friends were also very one-dimensional. They were just there to make conversation and move the plot along and nothing else.

The book ends with a big cliffhanger, but I wasn't inclined to read the next book at all. Rather, I just read the summary on Goodreads (and it doesn't seem like I missed much). If only the author had treated the story a little better, maybe I would have given it a chance. (Now is a good time to point out that this is the first book in a series of FIVE. Maybe I'm just being harsh here, but honestly, who cares about Janie enough to withstand four more books with only halfway-decent writing and plot and characters that just fall flat?)

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