Imagine feeling as if no one understands you and no one seems to really want you. William H. Coles explores these themes in Sister Carrie. The Broward children have just buried both of their parents, rather unexpectedly. The youngest sister is a mere 17 years old and needs someone to take care of her until she reaches 18. They all have excuses, from being busy with their own kids, to not being able to afford her care. Jessie finally decides to relent if the others will help financially.

Jessie and Carrie have very different ideas on how life should be and on what decisions Carrie should be allowed to make for herself. Carrie falls into a relationship with a man rather quickly, leading to a life of mystery and intrigue. Readers are taken on a ride where it is not always clear as to whom they should be rooting for or against. In the meantime, Jessie is lonely and tired of creeps trying to get close to her. Will she ever find happiness, either alone or with a special man?

Watching the characters develop and change over time is intriguing, as their growth is not necessarily what one would expect. Carrie and Jessie are both immature as the story begins, despite Jessie being a bit older. As Carrie experiences her new life and meets difficult challenges, she changes in ways that are not always obvious. Jessie is always down on herself, having difficulty finding happiness in life, despite the efforts of others to include her in their lives. Over time, one sees growth in the way Jessie lives her life, in a very unpredictable way.
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