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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

The Face on the Milk Carton

The Face on the Milk Carton - Caroline B. Cooney

I was in the sixth grade. We were having one of those Scholastic book orders that made reading so exciting. This book caught my attention. What could be more captivating than a book about a kid finding out they're kidnapped?!! I begged my mom to order it and she did. Shortly thereafter, the book was in my hands, and suddenly I was ashamed. I was a boy on the verge of junior high school. I watched sports, liked cars and video games. I was too cool for a book with a pig-tailed girl on the cover.


Some time later that year, this kid named Joey mentioned the book. He was cool. He asked if I'd read it. Was this a trap? “I have a copy—but only because my mom wanted to read it,” I said. He said he'd read the book and it was awesome, that I should definitely read it. Again, part of me wanted to read The Face on the Milk Carton, but I really didn't have time for it. I was going to get a Z shaved on the side of my head, work for Ferrari, and sing backup for Bobby Brown: I was way too cool for books.


I wish I'd listened to Joey. I probably would've liked this book more as a twelve year old than as a thirty-five year old. That being said, I was surprised by how much I did enjoy the novel as an adult. No, it's not some great work of literature. But what it is is captivating. I was enthralled by what Janie would do. I was pulled in, reading chapter after chapter in a single sitting. Was I captivated enough to read the rest of the books in the series? No. Nevertheless, The Face on the Milk Carton was a wonderful ride of adolescent “what ifs.”


One thing that surprised me about this novel was the amount of sex. Had I read it back in grade school as was the original plan, I probably would've been ashamed and confused by what I'd read. In my opinion, The Face on the Milk Carton is more a young adult novel than a child's story. Damn Scholastic for trying to corrupt my youth!


And what's up with Janie's lactose intolerance? It's constantly being mentioned. Girl cannot consume dairy without dire consequence. Apt condition to have given the title? Perhaps. But what kind of pizza is this girl eating? Does heated cheese somehow not qualify as dairy? How does the writer and the editors miss this contradiction?


Despite its flaws in logic and storytelling, The Face on the Milk Carton was a great adventure. I didn't learn anything, I wasn't moved by the condition of these characters, but I was entertained. And if that is the point of this book, then the author succeeded. Thanks, Joey. It took over twenty years, but you finally convinced me.