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The Face on the Milk Carton

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

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 38 reviews

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
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
Parent of a 11 year old Written byMs. D. May 4, 2011

A great book to discuss with your child.

This is an excellent book for parents or teachers to read aloud to 10 - 11 year olds as well. They can leave out the kissing scenes and thoughts of boy-girl re... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byElise.Taylor June 10, 2016
Teen, 15 years old Written bydes5177 January 29, 2013

the face on the milk carton review

It's great! A complete page-turner and grand novel with fantastically realistic themes. As well as relate-able topics!

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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