The Face on the Milk Carton — “Janie Johnson” Series


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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family Thriving Family, a marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Janie Johnson” series.

Plot Summary

Fifteen-year-old Janie Johnson has a happy life, good friends and loving parents. During school lunch one day, she sees a picture of a missing girl on a milk carton. She realizes that she is the child that was abducted 12 years earlier. Though she adores her parents and doesn’t want to upend her comfortable life, she’s no longer sure she can trust the people she believed were her mom and dad. She shares her secret with Reeve, the neighbor with whom she’s developing a romance. Reeve is mainly interested in having sex with Janie and maintaining a stable relationship between their two families. He urges her not to rock the boat by trying to find her biological parents.

When Janie can no longer stand the suspense, she confronts her parents. They admit that Janie is their granddaughter. Their daughter, Hannah, became deeply involved in a Hare Krishna cult and left home. Hannah returned one day with a child, saying she wanted to escape. But the cult’s hold on her was too strong, and Hannah eventually left home again, alone. Hannah’s parents raised Janie as if she were their own. They changed their last name and, frequently, their location so cult members wouldn’t find and try to take Janie.

Janie isn’t sure her parents’ story adds up. She makes Reeve drive her to New Jersey in an effort to locate the people she believes are her family of origin. She doesn’t talk to anyone there, but she sees children who look like her and is convinced they’re her siblings. She continues to research her kidnapping and comes to believe that maybe Hannah, not the parents she loves, really kidnapped her. Reeve asks his lawyer sister to get involved. She talks to Janie’s parents, revealing Hannah’s possible role in the kidnapping. They agree that Janie needs to contact her biological parents. As the book ends, Janie telephones the New Jersey family.

Christian Beliefs

Mom and Dad say Hannah thought a lot about right and wrong. They say they could have imagined her being a nun and spending her life contemplating God and His ways. They follow up by saying they weren’t a religious family, so Hannah may not have known what a nun was. They tried a traditional church in an effort to get Hannah out of the cult, but Hannah still left to join the temple commune. A prayer comes to Janie’s memory, and she wonders why she, from a nonreligious household, knows a prayer. Janie is shocked when her mother admits to daily praying for Hannah’s safety. She says she’s surprised that Mom believes in God. Mom replies that she has no beliefs, only hopes.

Other Belief Systems

Hannah joins the Hare Krishna cult, which controls her thoughts and behaviors. There is a brief description about the cult.

Authority Roles

Janie’s parents fight but always meet in the middle. They go to great lengths to protect Janie, and they support and befriend neighbor kids, such as Reeve. Mom does various types of volunteer work. Reeve’s mom expresses her disappointment with Reeve and his academic performance.

Profanity & Violence

The Lord’s name is used in vain once.

Sexual Content

Janie says the town’s scenic overlook is better known to teens as the sexual overlook because you can go there to watch couples in action. Janie looks at herself naked in the mirror and likes her body. When Reeve first kisses Janie, she says it felt like a romance novel in which the man was so frantic with passion that he pulled the woman off of a horse or out of a carriage and onto the bed. When Jamie feeds Reeve cake, his lips and tongue touch her fingers with every bite. She flirts with another boy, wondering if flirting will cause one thing to lead to another. Her friend urges her on, saying the guy is not asking Janie to sleep with him or anything.

When Reeve and Janie leave town to look for Janie’s biological family, Reeve says their parents will figure they went off to have sex. He says his sister went off to a hotel with one of her early boyfriends. Reeve doesn’t understand why Janie isn’t more interested in sex. He says she’s like a hard, sharp-pointed thing. When Reeve and Janie stop at a hotel, Janie says she doesn’t think she can concentrate enough to have sex. Reeve suggests he could concentrate enough for both of them. He reserves a room for them, but Janie decides she can’t go through with it. She tells him it won’t be like this when they do it for real. Before returning home, they have an intense full-body kiss. Janie says if people find out about her kidnapping, she’ll garner lots of publicity, similar to people on talk shows with trans-bi-cross sexual habits. Reeve says he’d settle for any sexual habits at all. While Janie is visibly upset about her circumstances, Reeve kisses her and feels her up.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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