The Face on the Milk Carton

Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
The Face on the Milk Carton Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
A gripping, emotionally complex page-turner.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 39 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Janie and her boyfriend cut school one day, arrive home late, and do not call their parents, resulting in serious punishment.


Janie discovers that she was kidnapped from her real family. Initially, she is unsure whether the parents she has now are the kidnappers.


Mild references to adolescent sexual desire. Janie approaches having sex, decides against it, but later hints that she may agree to sex in the future.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this gripping page-turner is likely to inspire serious thinking about the importance of families.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13-year-old Written bymaji4100 November 6, 2014

Good plot ruined by sexual content

I was excited for my 11 yr old daughter to read this book that she had checked out of her middle school library. It was highly recommended by classmates. I st... Continue reading
Adult Written byjjacobsnyc August 2, 2011

Could have been a great book, but two major flaws

I'd love to give this book more stars, but there are two problems with it.
1 - The "almost-sex" scenes and references are unrealistic. The relat... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byAndrewschroll November 29, 2016

Terrible book

I do not think this book should be read by anyone that comes across it it is bad
Kid, 12 years old April 9, 2008

Not appropriate for the conservative reader!

The book may be fine for a high school student, as it is a 1993 Young Reader's Choice Award winner for grades 9th thru 12th. The readibility age of a book... Continue reading

What's the story?

What if the face on the milk carton was your own? When fifteen-year-old Janie Johnson sees her own picture on a carton of milk, she wonders whether her loving parents are actually kidnappers. If she admits what she knows, will she lose them? This roller coaster of suspense leaves readers eager for its sequel.


Is it any good?

Cooney addresses Janie's problems honestly and openly; teens will be drawn to this book for the intriguing story, and because they recognize the characters as real teenagers like themselves. They instantly become caught up in a good mystery, but they also begin to think about the importance and complexity of family relationships. Janie's dilemma reflects their own uncertainty about life.

Janie Johnson confronts the abrupt truth that she doesn't know who she really is -- she doesn't even know her real name. Even worse, she has no idea who her parents are -- neither the parents she knows, who may be kidnappers, nor the parents who lost her. And her friendship with Reeve has moved into sexual awareness. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about identity and family relationships. The milk carton forces Janie to question everything she thinks she knows about her life. Have you ever learned something surprising about an adult that caused you to see them in a new light?

Book details

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