Cover image for Big Mouth & Ugly Girl
Title:
Big Mouth & Ugly Girl
Author:
Oates, Joyce Carol, 1938-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First paperback edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperTempest, 2003.

©2002
Physical Description:
266 pages, 8 pages] ; 19 cm
Summary:
When sixteen-year-old Matt is falsely accused of threatening to blow up his high school and his friends turn against him, an unlikely classmate comes to his aid.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
720 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 5.1 8.0 59202.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.2 13 Quiz: 31494 Guided reading level: NR.
ISBN:
9780064473477

9781435236417
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

Big Mouth

No I did not. I did not, I did not. I did not say those things, and I did not plan those things. Won't It anyone believe me?

Ugly Girl

All right, Ugly Girl made a mistake. I'd told my mom what I'd heard in the cafeteria, and she'd told Dad. Evidently. I'd thought for sure they would want me to speak up for the truth.


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. 8^-up. Matt Donaghy's big mouth gets him a three-day suspension when "unnamed witnesses" allege that the Rocky River High School junior has threatened to bomb the school if his play isn't accepted for the Spring Arts Festival. Fortunately, his classmate Ursula Rigg, who calls herself "Ugly Girl," heard what he really said, and despite her parents' reservations, demonstrates the courage to come to his defense. An awkward friendship between the two self-styled misfits begins to develop but is threatened when Matt's parents sue the school system for slander. Distinguished novelist Oates' first young adult novel is a thought-provoking, character-driven drama about the climate of hysteria created by school violence in America, and how two teenagers find the courage to fight it and to find themselves in the process. Ursula, who tells her part of the story in an edgy, often angry first-person voice, appears at first to be the more interesting character, but Matt, whose story unfolds in the third person, gradually emerges as a sweetly engaging, multidimensional character in his own right. His aching loneliness will break readers' hearts. This title is also being published simultaneously in audio and e-book versions. --Michael Cart


Publisher's Weekly Review

Believable, full-blooded characters propel Oates's first YA novel past some plotting that doesn't quite add up. Ursula Riggs, a high school junior, has adopted a stance of invincible indifference ("Since that day I woke up and knew I wasn't an ugly girl, I was Ugly Girl"). Against her mother's wishes, she leaps to her classmate Matt Donaghy's defense when his throwaway joke about blowing up the school makes him a suspected terrorist, but then rebuffs Matt's overtures to friendship. Told in alternating perspectives (Ursula's in first-person and Matt's in third), the novel intensifies even though Matt is quickly exonerated. Matt's friends ice him out, citing pressure from their parents, and his family receives hate mail. When Matt's family files suit against the school and his accusers, the hostilities escalate, and Matt nearly attempts suicide (Ursula, again in the right place at the right time, saves him once more). In turn, Matt helps Ursula realize that her Ugly Girl persona "wasn't right for all occasions." The weak spots here have to do with the villains (including the students who reported Matt's "joke" and those who bully him); they are barely developed, and stereotypes seem to have taken the place of their motivation. But the relationship between Ursula and Matt grows, credibly and compellingly, against a convincing high school backdrop. Readers will relate to the pressures these two experience, both at school and from their parents, and be gratified by their ability to emerge the wiser. Ages 13-up. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-While horsing around in the high school cafeteria, Matt Donaghy makes some remarks that land him in a world of trouble. Yanked out of fifth-period study hall by plainclothes policemen, he learns that he's suspected of plotting to bomb the school. In this day and age that's no joking matter. His friends are advised by their parents not to get involved, lest they fall under suspicion themselves. Only the resolutely individualistic, somewhat frightening Ursula Riggs, a girl he barely knows, is willing to speak up on Matt's behalf. With a combination of clear-sightedness and bravado she gets the principal to rethink Matt's suspension-and that's just the beginning of Oates's novel. The next three-quarters of the book become even more interesting, as the author explores the subsequent social pressures placed on the teenagers and adults in a fictitious, affluent suburb of New York City. Oates has a good ear for the speech, the family relations, the e-mail messaging, the rumor mills, and the easy cruelties waiting just beneath the veneer of civility. Matt's character and especially the heroic Ursula's are depicted with a raw honesty. Readers will be propelled through these pages by an intense curiosity to learn how events will play out. Oates has written a fast-moving, timely, compelling story.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Big Mouth & Ugly Girl Chapter One It was an ordinary January afternoon, a Thursday, when they came for Matt Donaghy. They came for him during fifth period, which was Matt's study period, in room 220 of Rocky River High School, Westchester County. Matt and three friends--Russ, Stacey, Skeet--had formed a circle with their desks at the rear of the room and were conferring, in lowered voices, about Matt's adaptation of a short story by Edgar Allan Poe into a one-act play; after school, in Drama Club, the four of them were scheduled to read William Wilson: A Case of Mistaken Identity for the club members and their advisor, Mr. Weinberg. It was a coincidence that Mr. Weinberg, who taught English and drama at Rocky River High, was in charge of fifth-period study hall, and when a knock came at the door of the room, Mr. Weinberg went to open it in his good-natured, sauntering manner. "Yes, gentlemen? What can I do for you?" Only a few students, sitting near the front of the room, took much notice. They might have registered a note of surprise in Mr. Weinberg's tone. But Mr. Weinberg, with his graying sandy hair worn longer than most of his male colleagues' at Rocky River, and a bristling beard that invited teasing, had a flair for dramatizing ordinary remarks, giving a light touch where he could. Calling strangers "gentlemen" was exactly in keeping with Mr. Weinberg's humor. At the rear of the room, Matt and his friends were absorbed in the play, for which Matt was doing hurried revisions, typing away furiously on his laptop. Anxiously he'd asked his friends, "But does this work? Is it scary, is it funny, does it move?" Matt Donaghy had something of a reputation at Rocky River for being both brainy and a comic character, but secretly he was a perfectionist, too. He'd been working on his one-act play William Wilson: A Case of Mistaken Identity longer than his friends knew, and he had hopes it would be selected to be performed at the school's Spring Arts Festival. Typing in revisions, Matt hadn't been paying any attention to Mr. Weinberg at the front of the room talking with two men. Until he heard his name spoken--"Matthew Donaghy?" Matt looked up. What was this? He saw Mr. Weinberg pointing in his direction, looking worried. Matt swallowed hard, beginning to be frightened. What did these men, strangers, want with him? They wore dark suits, white shirts, plain neckties; and they were definitely not smiling. As Matt stared, they approached him, moving not together but along two separate aisles, as if to block off his route if he tried to escape. Afterward Matt would realize how swift and purposeful--and practiced--they were. If I'd made a break to get my backpack...If I'd reached into my pocket... The taller of the two men, who wore dark-rimmed glasses with green-tinted lenses, said, "You're Matthew Donaghy?" Matt was so surprised, he heard himself stammer, "Y-Yes. I'm--Matt." The classroom had gone deathly silent. Everyone was staring at Matt and the two strangers. It was like a moment on TV, but there were no cameras. The men in their dark suits exuded an authority that made rumpled, familiar Mr. Weinberg in his corduroy jacket and slacks look ineffectual. "Is something w-wrong? What do you want with--me?" Matt's mind flooded: Something had happened at home to his mother, or his brother, Alex...his father was away on business; had something happened to him? A plane crash... The men were standing on either side of his desk, looming over him. Unnaturally close for strangers. The man with the glasses and a small fixed smile introduced himself and his companion to Matt as detectives with the Rocky River Police Department and asked Matt to step outside into the corridor. "We'll only need a few minutes." In his confusion Matt looked to Mr. Weinberg for permission--as if the high school teacher's authority could exceed the authority of the police. Mr. Weinberg nodded brusquely, excusing Matt. He too appeared confused, unnerved. Matt untangled his legs from beneath his desk. He was a tall, lanky, whippet-lean boy who blushed easily. With so many eyes on him, he felt that his skin was burning, breaking into a fierce flamelike acne. He heard himself stammer, "Should I--take my things?" He meant his black canvas backpack, which he'd dropped onto the floor beside his desk, the numerous messy pages of his play script, and his laptop computer. Meaning too--Will I be coming back? The detectives didn't trouble to answer Matt, and didn't wait for him to pick up the backpack; one of them took charge of it, and the other carried Matt's laptop. Matt didn't follow them from the room; they walked close beside him, not touching him but definitely giving the impression of escorting him out of study hall. Matt moved like a person in a dream. He caught a glimpse of his friends' shocked faces, especially Stacey's. Stacey Flynn. She was a popular girl, very pretty, but a serious student; the nearest Matt Donaghy had to a girlfriend, though mostly they were "just friends," linked by an interest in Drama Club. Matt felt a stab of shame that Stacey should be witnessing this. . . . Afterward he would recall how matter-of-fact and practiced the detectives obviously were, removing the object of their investigation from a public place. What a long distance it seemed, walking from the rear of the classroom to the front, and to the door, as everyone stared. There was a roaring in Matt's ears. Maybe his house had caught on fire? No, a plane crash...Where was Dad, in Atlanta? Dallas? When was he coming home? Today, tomorrow? But was it likely that police would come to school to inform a student of such private news... Big Mouth & Ugly Girl . Copyright © by Joyce Oates. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Big Mouth and Ugly Girl 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.