Big Mouth and Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates

The Barnes & Noble Review
Ever make a stupid comment or joke, or say something you obviously didn't mean? Of course you have -- we all have. Was it ever taken out of context? Written in the wake of some highly publicized school shootings, Big Mouth & Ugly Girl takes a look at the shock waves that emanate from an overheard comment muttered in sarcasm, and the overzealous reaction of the school and surrounding community that follows.


High school junior Matt Donaghy is considered an okay guy. He gets good grades, writes for the school paper, is in the Drama Club, and is known for his witty, if immature, humor. Students and teachers seem to like him. But one day he says something that makes a few classmates think he's out to bomb the school. The school principal is notified, the police are called in, and rumors are abuzz. Even his buddies doubt his innocence, and none of the guys come forward in his defense. There is, however, someone else who overheard Matt's statement and understood his mocking intent. School renegade Ursula Riggs, or "Ugly Girl" as she refers to herself, doesn't know Matt very well but reveals what she heard and the context in which it was said -- even though her parents instruct her to mind her own business. But even if Ursula can help Matt clear up this misunderstanding, will life at Rocky River High School ever be the same again?


In her first novel for young adults, acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates delivers a striking story about friendship, family, community, support, betrayal, and self-confidence. This powerful novel makes us think carefully about what we say, to whom we say it, and what we mean. After closing this book, you'll ask yourself the same question I did: What if I'd said such a thing? (Michele D. Thomas)

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