Monday, December 16, 2013

Janie Johnson #1: The Face on the Milk Carton

By Caroline B. Cooney. Published 1990.

Janie Johnson is a typical fifteen year old in suburban Connecticut, until one day she notices a picture on the back of a milk carton, of a little girl named Jennie Spring, last seen in New Jersey. Janie believes it’s her. She tries to tell her friends, but they just laugh it off. But Janie can’t stop thinking about it, and starts to have “daymares” about other little kids, a woman with a white apron, going shoe shopping, and a beautiful woman at an ice cream shop. She becomes completely obsessed with the idea that she may have been kidnapped, but she won’t say anything to anyone.

Janie asks to see her birth certificate, but her mother puts it off, saying it’s in a safe deposit box at the bank. Janie starts to grow angry and impatient with her parents. She realizes there’s no pictures or anything from before she was three. She goes to look in the attic one day, and finds a trunk with the initial H. on it. Inside are all sorts of school papers and things for a girl named Hannah. Also in the trunk is the same dress that the little girl was wearing in the milk carton photo.

She finally confronts her parents, asking why there are no pictures, where her birth certificate is, and who Hannah is. They tell her they are actually her grandparents, and Hannah is their daughter. Hannah got caught up with the Hare Krishna, and wasn’t in contact with her parents for a long while. One day she showed up with little Janie, saying that she knew the cult wasn’t good for Janie. Her parents took them in. They thought the cult would come after them, so they moved a lot. Eventually, Hannah went back to the cult alone. Still worried the cult would want Janie, they kept moving, changed their name, and even cut off all contact with Hannah.

Janie accepts all this, and goes to bed that night comforted. However, when she wakes up the next morning, she has a lot of questions. The milk carton is still unexplained.

During all this, Janie’s older neighbor, Reeve, is gaining more than a brotherly interest in Janie. They even kiss one day. When Reeve suggests they cut school the day after Janie learns her history, Janie agrees, and directs him to the town in New Jersey she was stolen from. She tells Reeve her story, but he doesn’t necessarily believe it.

When they get to the town, they look up the Springs in the phone book, and drive past their house. They see three boys and a mom, all with Janie’s red hair. Janie freaks out, and says they should go home. Reeve is a little freaked out, too, but pretty much tells Janie that he thought she wanted to ditch school that day to do something “neat” with him. He even pulls into a motel, and checks in; when Janie, as confused as she is, tells him she can’t hook up with him. When they get home, they’re in deep shit at first, but Janie explains, Reeve was just helping her with her news, the parents all give in.

Janie decides to look up the kidnapping in the newspapers. I don’t miss microfiche, y’all. Just as she’s about to find out the parents names, she freaks out, and turns the machine off.

Janie is overwhelmed with guilt about apparently going willingly with Hannah. She says she hates the little girl she was. Reeve tells her she has got to tell her parents her worries, oh won’t see her anymore. They break up.

Janie had been journaling all her thoughts and theories in a notebook she kept with her. She condenses it down to a few pages, sticks it in an envelope, and addresses it to the Springs, never intending on mailing it. Then promptly loses the envelope. Dumbass.

She freaks out (I know, she does a lot of that), and tells Reeve. He gets his sister, who is studying law, and whom he has already told the story to, in on it. They all tell Janie’s parents. They discuss all the possible outcomes if the letter gets mailed. Janie’s mother gets up, and dials the Springs’ number. The book ends with Janie saying, “Hi. It’s…your daughter. Me. Jennie.”

o   When lamenting about Janie growing up, her dad wraps her hair around his wrist. Later, he brushes his face with her hair. That’s…creepy.

o   Janie gradually adds letters to her name, ending up making it Jayne Johnstone, and then Jayyne Jonstone. I’m embarrassed to say I did the exact same thing when I was fifteen.

o   Room porn: Janie gets the master bedroom since her parents each had a small study. It’s decorated in ivory, pale pale rose, and faded lavender. Her bedspread has lace panels, all different shades and textures of white. It’s too fragile to sit on. That’s weird. Why would you want a bedspread you can’t sit on?

o   Janie says she was three and a half when she was kidnapped, she should have called home, that kids that age have their numbers memorized. Really?

o   Throughout everything, Reeve just keeps trying to have sex with Janie. It’s really annoying.

1 comment:

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