Hard-hitting, page-turning and celebratory of friendship in unlikely circumstances, Joyce Carol Oates' sure touch with small town life hits home in her first young adult novel. Matt Donaghy is the class joker, and Ursula Riggs is the misfit loner. Neither knows the other. But when Matt is suddenly arrested on a charge of threatening to blow up the school and massacre the students, Ursula is the only one who sees through the hysteria and hypocrisy, and corroborates Matt's story. The case is dropped, but Matt's old friends avoid him, and his teachers treat him with kid gloves. Even Ursula, apparently his only friend during the crisis, can't meet his eye. But Ursula can't remain aloof when she catches Matt contemplating suicide - and a strange friendship is born.
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(197mm x 130mm x 19mm)
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
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UK Kirkus Review »
A highly regarded writer of adult novels, Joyce Carol Oates has turned her remarkable talents to writing for younger readers. This is an utterly absorbing book about two 16-year-old high school students, and the relationship that develops between them following a police investigation. Matt Donaghy is bright, popular and good-looking but a bit too clever for his own good. When someone overhears a throwaway remark of his in the cafeteria about staging a school massacre, the police are called in and a full-scale enquiry ensues. As a result of his infamous 'big mouth', Matt is ostracized by his peers, under pressure from their families. Matt's parents retaliate by filing their own lawsuit against the school, and Matt becomes increasingly isolated and depressed. But there is one person who believes Matt has been wronged and she is determined to stand up for him. Ursula Riggs, or 'Ugly Girl' as she ironically calls herself, knows what it's like to be an outsider - tall and muscular, she rebels against the cute prettiness of her mother and sister Lisa by hiding behind a veneer of toughness and defiance, not caring what she wears or what she looks like. The two communicate via e-mail - many times they both come close to admitting the true nature of their feelings about each other, but as many messages are deleted as are actually sent. It is not until Ursula catches Matt contemplating suicide that she lets the barriers down, and out of the crisis the two develop a deep and lasting friendship. Ursula is a stirring heroine, a loner who has few friends yet is fiercely loyal, with a burning integrity. The burgeoning relationship between the two teenagers is utterly convincing, although Ursula's character is more fully developed than that of the more anodyne Matt. Teenagers will identify with both, and with the pressures put upon young people to conform. Oates also makes some pertinent comments about the fickle nature of some so-called friendships, and how they can quickly buckle under stress. In this scintillating novel, her finely tuned ear for the minutiae of personal relationships has never been better displayed. Ages 13+ (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Joyce Carol Oates
Born in upstate New York in 1938, Joyce Carol Oates has twice been nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature. She has won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Pen / Faulkner Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is the author of a number of distinguished books in several genres, all published within the past twenty-five years, and is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Princeton University.