Hallie Johnston, University of Miami


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A year after two trains collide and derail into the Winona textile mill, the Carp family is forced to foreclose on their home and move into a rental across town. While the economy of Winona, Alabama continues to deteriorate and her parents struggle personally and financially, Jessie Carp, the fourteen-year-old narrator at the center of this story, is determined to raise her status in life and achieve what she desires most—beauty, love, and attention. The only obstacle in her way is her older sister, Leigh, who seems to have it all and, as Jessie observes, she and her sister can’t “both have the same thing.” Life begins to change for Jessie after Leigh runs away with her boyfriend, seemingly disappearing forever. But when Leigh unexpectedly returns, the sisters find themselves competing for the same life. Ultimately, this novel is about familial relationships and complex, often difficult kinds of love. It also explores themes of regional identity and the liminal nature of adolescence.