Big Mouth & Ugly Girl

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Big Mouth & Ugly Girl

If you are looking for a book club, book discussion, or book talk YA title, consider this for your next pick.
Sixteen-year-old Matt's big mouth has got him trouble. He is overheard threatening to blow up the school. Not really, but in the age of terrorism and zero tolerance, the "adult" authorities mistakenly take it seriously. Innocent Matt is suspended, the false accusation takes on a life of its own, and he is now stigmatized as the "bomb scare boy." Think of Kafka, the Salem witch hunt, McCarthyism's guilt by association, and today's "texting" of rumor and hearsay.
Ursula Riggs, a fellow student with typical adolescent insecurities: ugly body image, alienation from her peers and school cliques, and mom/dad conflicts, decides, on principle, to support and defend Matt. Consequently, in order to cope with the ordeal and counteract the hostilities of their peers, adults, and community, the two outcasts develop a friendship. After suspenseful trial and tribulation and Matt's vindication, both end up stronger, and, most importantly, better adjusted emotionally and socially.
The author, Joyce Carol Oates, has been a major American writer for decades. Annually, she is shortlisted for the Noble Prize. Librarians and educators are always searching for ways to introduce and expose young readers to great writing and authors. This and her other novels, Freaky Green Eyes (2003), Sexy (2005), After The Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, And Flew Away (2006), can provide that opportunity. Ms. Oates did specifically write them for young adults.
I believe the author consciously chose to deal with "grownup" social issues and themes. What adults do does affect teens and teens know it. She also knows that if a story is captivating, entertaining, and the character voices and dialog are authentic and convincing, readers, even teen readers, will be willing to make the effort or go the extra mile in contemplating and understanding deep and challenging ideas and themes. The Arkansas City High School library's multiple dog-eared copies are replaced yearly.
Yes, popular YA fiction without magic, dragons, and vampires! Yes, page turning, social commentary novels that teens actually want to read! Relevancy, rounded/developed characters, command of the language, entertaining yet cerebral, portrays timeless and universal human behavior--isn't that the definition of a classic?

Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, Librarian.

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