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Small Avalanches and Other Stories Hardcover – March 18, 2003

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

*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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; 1st edition (March 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006001217X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060012175
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.4 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,182,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Eric Anderson on April 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Small Avalanches is a collection of short stories previously published by Joyce Carol Oates whose thematic link is that each centers around the life of an adolescent or teenage girl. The focus on this age group is appropriate for this extremely talented writer who has written in an incredible range of styles and voices, but has often focused on the lives of young woman especially in her novels such as Man Crazy, Blonde and I'll Take You There to name just a few.
Oates has said in an interview with Diane Rehm in 2002:
"I feel probably quintessentially very adolescent... I guess it's just that age of romance and yearning and some scepticism, sometimes a little bit of cynicism."
The temperament of this age group that Oates so readily identifies with is something that the author is able to ingeniously capture in this series of tales. She shows in her female characters those intense feelings she marks as emblematic of this age group from a variety of perspectives.
Despite the close ages of all these girls there is a tremendous diversity of voice within the stories. They are sometimes vulnerable as the girls are primarily perceived or surprisingly self-aware which gives them the ability to manipulate their own situation. This occurs in some of the stories like Capricorn where a girl named Melanie meets a man on the internet who begins obsessively watching her play tennis and Small Avalanches where a girl walking home is followed by a suspicious looking man she nearly escapes. Some of the girls from these stories are timid, naive and orbit danger with curious innocence.
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Format: Hardcover
Joyce Carol Oates dedicates her latest collection of short stories, �Small Avalanches� to �The Bad Girls.� Be it Ingrid in �Man Crazy,� or Anellia in �Ill Take you There,� Oates has always been fascinated, really infatuated with the outcasts, the fringe dwellers, the lonely hearts. More to the point, Oates enjoys writing female characters that struggle and fight against what society considers �normal� behavior�whatever the heck normal means in the society of Oates� world and in the world in general. It is the tension of this ambiguity that Oates revels in.
�Small Avalanches� begins with the story, �Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?� which was the basis for the film �Smooth Talk� starring Laura Dern as Connie and Treat Williams as Arnold Friend. Reading it again now, and even with the visuals of the film spinning around my head, I was struck by the smoldering sexuality of the story. Connie is 15 and she has one foot stuck in childhood and the other one, always ready to high-tail it to the highway roadhouses, in adulthood. Oates describes her: ��Everything about her as two sides to it, one for home and for anywhere that was not home: her walk, which could be childlike and bobbing, or languid enough to make someone thinking she was hearing music in here head�her laugh, which was cynical and drawling at home but high pitched and nervous anywhere else.�
Arnold Friend becomes Connie�s �friend,� stalker really. Arnold is older, handsome, drives a spiffy car and is definitely dangerous and what he offers Connie is a view of adulthood she cannot turn down: it�s glamour and attraction cannot be ignored. The denouement finds Connie more experienced in the adult world that she craves but is not ready for.
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Format: Hardcover
I was on a 7-hour train ride, and figured I'd give the book a shot. My first sign of trouble was the dedication of the first story to Bob "Lingerie" Dylan, but I pressed on. A lot of seemingly intelligent people are still under his spell, blissfully coasting on the remnants of his image from the days when he wasn't a Starbucks sellout.

Anyway, the first story is about a bad thing that happens to an innocent teen-aged girl. Throughout the story you feel like you're watching a bad horror movie, screaming "don't go into the attic." This feeling, I would learn, is the unifying theme of this book.

Exhausted after one story, I put the book down and looked at the bland countryside passing by. Boredom took over after 15 minutes, and after cursing myself for not bringing along a backup, I went back to the book.

I stopped reading the next story, "The Sky Blue Ball," after it looked like another horrible thing was going to happen to another stupid little girl. She may have turned out fine, but I just didn't have the emotional energy. I took another break and headed to "Small Avalanches." This one, again, is about a stupid teen girl and a horrible thing that could happen to her. This 13 year-old girl, incidentally, is the one portrayed on the cover. Maybe it's the hormones in the food, but the person on the cover looks a little too busty to be 13.

I skipped around a bit, figuring the stupid little girl theme was bound to run out. "Haunted" and "Capricorn" were, refreshingly, about TWO stupid teen girls hurtling blindly into certain doom. The book finally abandons the idiot theme in the last two stories, "The Visit," and "The Model.
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