Cover image for Small avalanches and other stories
Small avalanches and other stories
Oates, Joyce Carol, 1938-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : HarperTempest, [2003]

Physical Description:
390 pages ; 19 cm
A collection of twelve short stories for young people including "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been, " "Life After High School, " and "How I Contemplated the World."
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.5 13.0 68835.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



When The Sky Blue Ball comes soaring over the fence, a high-school girl is confronted with the haunting memory of childhood. A jealous teen lets her cousin go off alone with a dangerous Capricorn, aware of the terrifying possibilities. A vulnerable young girl cunningly outwits a menacing stranger and exults in her newfound power, surviving the first of many Small Avalanches.

In these twelve riveting tales, master storyteller Joyce Carol Oates visits the dark, enigmatic psyche of the teenage years. Intense and unnerving, uplifting and triumphant, the stories in this collection explore the fateful consequences of the choices we make in our everyday lives.

Author Notes

Joyce Carol Oates was born on June 16, 1938 in Lockport, New York. She received a bachelor's degree in English from Syracuse University and a master's degree in English from the University of Wisconsin.

She is the author of numerous novels and collections of short stories. Her works include We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, Bellefleur, You Must Remember This, Because It Is Bitter, Because It Is My Heart, Solstice, Marya : A Life, and Give Me Your Heart. She has received numerous awards including the National Book Award for Them, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literature. She was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with her title Lovely, Dark, Deep. She also wrote a series of suspense novels under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith. In 2015, her novel The Accursed became listed as a bestseller on the iBooks chart.

She worked as a professor of English at the University of Windsor, before becoming the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University. She and her late husband Raymond J. Smith operated a small press and published a literary magazine, The Ontario Review.

(Bowker Author Biography) Joyce Carol Oates is one of the most eminent and prolific literary figures and social critics of our times. She has won the National Book Award and several O. Henry and Pushcart prizes. Among her other awards are an NEA grant, a Guggenheim fellowship, the PEN/Malamud Lifetime Achievement Award, and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Lifetime Achievement in American Literature.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 9^-12. Big Mouth & Ugly Girl (2002), a Booklist Editors' Choice, was Oates' first YA novel, but as this collection of previously published stories shows, the author's adult writing has often focused on teenage girls. Betrayal is a theme throughout here, and there are no strong feminist heroes standing tall and free in these stories. Rather, these disturbing tales are about vulnerable, wild, rebellious, scared young women, several of whom fall victim to older, predatory males who know how to lure them with the thrill of danger and make them betray the best in themselves. One of the best stories is "Life after High School," a story in which a woman's teen past comes into the present and changes what she thought she knew. Oates makes poetry with ordinary words that take readers right into the restless psyches of young women terrified of their own violence. Far from role models, these characters wrestle with the fearful fantasies they dare not even articulate, "when every other thought you think is a forbidden thought . . . that must have come to you from somewhere else from someone you don't know who knows you." --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a dozen mesmerizing short stories, 10 of which were previously published and three of which have won O. Henry Awards, Joyce Carol Oates's Small Avalanches and Other Stories features females on the brink of adulthood from different eras and locales, who find themselves in painful, even desperate, situations-many of them sexual. In "Small Avalanches," Nancy is pursued by a strange man while walking down a Colorado road; in "Capricorn," Melanie meets a soulmate online who takes a predatory interest in her cousin. Oates often captures the essence of a character in a phrase: "Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home," she writes of the beautiful 15-year-old in "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" (which served as inspiration for Sweet Talk, a film starring Treat Williams and Laura Dern). (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-This is a haunting mix of 12 short stories-tales of seduction, abduction, miscued love, family tragedy, and family reconciliation-many of which previously appeared in adult publications. Several selections pulsate with the fickle folly of teen invincibility-capricious young women recklessly flirting with insidious dangers. Being alone in places where they shouldn't be, daring to enter an abandoned house, making a "chat room" acquaintance and setting up a meeting-all are shown to be risky ventures with dire consequences. In "Life after High School," a teen carries the guilt of a rejected boyfriend's suicide, only to learn, as an adult, that his struggle with homosexuality was at the heart of his death. "The Visit" relates the poignant experience of a teen who finally, though reluctantly, visits a frail grandparent in the isolating confines of a nursing home. The stories have a slow, deliberate, and unsettling current. Oates probes deeply into varying levels of inexperience, exposing complex material, and her commanding style captures the most intimate thoughts, fantasies, and flawed realities with a steady hand. This book should be given to young women as protection from their wide-eyed, "know-it-all" innocence.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Small Avalanches and Other Stories Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? for Bob Dylan Her name was Connie. She was fifteen and she had a quick, nervous giggling habit of craning her neck to glance into mirrors or checking other people's faces to make sure her own was all right. Her mother, who noticed everything and knew everything and who hadn't much reason any longer to look at her own face, always scolded Connie about it. "Stop gawking at yourself. Who are you? You think you're so pretty?" she would say. Connie would raise her eyebrows at these familiar old complaints and look right through her mother, into a shadowy vision of herself as she was right at that moment: she knew she was pretty and that was everything. Her mother had been pretty once too, if you could believe those old snapshots in the album, but now her looks were gone and that was why she was always after Connie. "Why don't you keep your room clean like your sister? How've you got your hair fixed -- what the hell stinks? Hair spray? You don't see your sister using that junk." Her sister, June, was twenty-four and still lived at home. She was a secretary in the high school Connie attended, and if that wasn't bad enough -- with her in the same building -- she was so plain and chunky and steady that Connie had to hear her praised all the time by her mother and her mother's sisters. June did this, June did that, she saved money and helped clean the house and cooked and Connie couldn't do a thing, her mind was all filled with trashy daydreams. Their father was away at work most of the time and when he came home he wanted supper and he read the newspaper at supper and after supper he went to bed. He didn't bother talking much to them, but around his bent head Connie's mother kept picking at her until Connie wished her mother was dead and she herself was dead and it was all over. "She makes me want to throw up sometimes," she complained to her friends. She had a high, breathless, amused voice that made everything she said sound a little forced, whether it was sincere or not. There was one good thing: June went places with girl friends of hers, girls who were just as plain and steady as she, and so when Connie wanted to do that her mother had no objections. The father of Connie's best girl friend drove the girls the three miles to town and left them at a shopping plaza so they could walk through the stores or go to a movie, and when he came to pick them up again at eleven he never bothered to ask what they had done. They must have been familiar sights, walking around the shopping plaza in their shorts and flat ballerina slippers that always scuffed on the sidewalk, with charm bracelets jingling on their thin wrists; they would lean together to whisper and laugh secretly if someone passed who amused or interested them. Connie had long dark blond hair that drew anyone's eye to it, and she wore part of it pulled up on her head and puffed out and the rest of it she let fall down her back. She wore a pullover jersey blouse that looked one way when she was at home and another way when she was away from home. Everything about her had two sides to it, one for home and one for anywhere that was not home: her walk, which could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make anyone think she was hearing music in her head; her mouth, which was pale and smirking most of the time, but bright and pink on these evenings out; her laugh, which was cynical and drawling at home -- "Ha, ha, very funny," -- but high-pitched and nervous anywhere else, like the jingling of the charms on her bracelet. Sometimes they did go shopping or to a movie, but sometimes they went across the highway, ducking fast across the busy road, to a drive-in restaurant where older kids hung out. The restaurant was shaped like a big bottle, though squatter than a real bottle, and on its cap was a revolving figure of a grinning boy holding a hamburger aloft. One night in midsummer they ran across, breathless with daring, and right away someone leaned out a car window and invited them over, but it was just a boy from high school they didn't like. It made them feel good to be able to ignore him. They went up through the maze of parked and cruising cars to the bright-lit, fly-infested restaurant, their faces pleased and expectant as if they were entering a sacred building that loomed up out of the night to give them what haven and blessing they yearned for. They sat at the counter and crossed their legs at the ankles, their thin shoulders rigid with excitement, and listened to the music that made everything so good: the music was always in the background, like music at a church service; it was something to depend upon. A boy named Eddie came in to talk with them. He sat backward on his stool, turning himself jerkily around in semicircles and then stopping and turning back again, and after a while he asked Connie if she would like something to eat. She said she would so she tapped her friend's arm on her way out -- her friend pulled her face up into a brave, droll look -- and Connie said she would meet her at eleven across the way. "I just hate to leave her like that," Connie said earnestly, but the boy said that she wouldn't be alone for long. So they went out to his car, and on the way Connie couldn't help but let her eyes wander over the windshields and faces all around her, her face gleaming with a joy that had nothing to do with Eddie or even this place; it might have been the music. She drew her shoulders up and sucked in her breath with the pure pleasure of being alive, and just at that moment she happened to glance at a face just a few feet away from hers. It was a boy with shaggy black hair, in a convertible jalopy painted gold. He stared at her and then his lips widened into a grin. Connie slit her eyes at him and turned away, but she couldn't help glancing back and there he was, still watching her. He wagged a finger and laughed and said, "Gonna get you, baby," and Connie turned away again without Eddie noticing anything. She spent three hours with him, at the restaurant where they ate hamburgers and drank Cokes in wax cups that were always sweating, and then down an alley a mile or so away, and when he left her off at five to eleven only the movie house was still open at the plaza. Her girl friend was there, talking with a boy. When Connie came up, the two girls smiled at each other and Connie said, "How was the movie?" and the girl said, " You should know." They rode off with the girl's father, sleepy and pleased, and Connie couldn't help but look back at the darkened shopping plaza with its big empty parking lot and its signs that were faded and ghostly now, and over at the drive-in restaurant where cars were still circling tirelessly. She couldn't hear the music at this distance. Next morning June asked her how the movie was and Connie said, "So-so." She and that girl and occasionally another girl went out several times a week, and the rest of the time Connie spent around the house -- it was summer vacation -- getting in her mother's way and thinking, dreaming about the boys she met. But all the boys fell back and dissolved into a single face that was not even a face but an idea, a feeling, mixed up with the urgent insistent pounding of the music and the humid night air of July. Small Avalanches and Other Stories . Copyright © by Joyce Oates. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Small Avalanches and Other Stories by Joyce Carol Oates All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.