Big Mouth and Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates

#91 in my book challenge for the year (am I going to make it to 100? I just don’t know!) was Big Mouth and Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates. I’ve been so impressed recently by talented “adult” authors like Alison McGhee and Pete Hautman who have written books for the young adult market, and Oates’s book is another fine example. It’s about two high school misfits, Matt and Ursula, whose respective nicknames make the title. Matt gets in trouble because of his mouth. Ursula’s part of the story is told from her point of view, with insight into her perception of herself as Ugly Girl, and how that serves her. As their stories unfold and intertwine, both characters develop believably and in environments that are richly detailed. There is some ugliness in the book, but of the kind that a good young-adult author doesn’t shy from, and it’s redeemed by hope and character development. Good writing and good characters, and an auspicious introduction for me to the works of Oates, who I have not read before.

Comments are closed.