King does a great job with setting up the main characters in this story: Carrieta "Carrie" White, Sue Snell, Carrie's mother, the teacher, principal, Chris, Billy, and Tommy. You can believe how a girl like Carrie could have been pushed as hard as she was in this book and decides to take matters into her own hands and make the people that she sees as the source of her pain (the kids at school, her mother, the town of Chamberlain) pay. There is no happy ending to Carrie. We have a teen girl who was bullied by her mother and her peers who in the end just wants people to feel even a sliver of the pain she has felt her own life.
"Carrie" begins with Carrie White getting her period for the first time in the girl's shower room at her high school. What follows is an ugly look at teen girls at their worst. Led by one of the nastiest characters ever, Chris Hargensen taunts Carrie and leads the rest of the group of girls into throwing sanitary napkins and tampons at her. Carrie thinks she is dying and reaches out to her gym teacher, Miss Desjardin who also feels repulsed by Carrie and then pities her when she realizes that Carrie really has no idea about what periods are and that this is her first one.
From there King follows Carrie and several other characters, Sue Snell, Chris Hargensen, Miss Desjardin, and a few others that I am totally forgetting to the epic events that led to the destruction of Chamberlain, Maine.
I ended up pitying Carrie. You find out that her mother is a religious dictator and that she has done her best to make Carrie ashamed of being a woman as well as punishing her if she does one thing that she doesn't like. King includes comments from Carrie's grandmother that shows that Carrie's mother has always been uber religious and off. I honestly wonder though how she got that way since it didn't seem like Carrie's mother was raised in a religious household.
Carrie's father died when she was young and we hear bits and pieces about him (always very religious but seemed to be into drinking) and he casts a long shadow on the book.
King also includes back and forths with other characters who try to examine their behavior towards Carrie (Sue and Miss Desjardin) and we follow the road to what led to Carrie going to prom night with Sue's boyfriend Tommy.
King also did a good job of showing how people like Chris (bullies) can cause high school to just be a painful experience for a good many children. One of my favorite scenes was the school principal smacking down Chris's father who came and tried to have Miss Desjardin fired and her prom tickets given back to her. One wonders if someone had stood up to her father beforehand, maybe Chris's reign of terror would have been cut off. I think looking at Chris to Carrie you can see how parents can shape you for the best or worst.
King includes personal testimonies from several of the townspeople to the police and to a committee, excerpts from a book written by Sue Snell, and even includes an autopsy report in the book. All of these working parts to the book do make it greater than if we just followed Carrie to the end of the book. This book seems to be King's practice case for "The Outsider" since he used similar narrative pieces in that book as well (he had witness testimonies, newspaper articles, etc.) This doesn't impact the flow at all and makes the book much more interesting.
The setting of the book is a small town in Maine, Chamberlain. After the events of prom night, the town in essence dies. You can read the pain that many survivors have not just for those lost, but for those who didn't stop Carrie's mother and try to reach out to her so she didn't feel so alone.
The ending was sad to me. I can understand Carrie's rage. A world that overlooked her, mocked her, and seemed hell bent on destroying her. I can see why she wanted to watch everything burn.