From School Library Journal
Grade 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
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
*Starred 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
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