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Required Reading: Big Mouth & Ugly Girl Review (English)

Big Mouth & Ugly Girl

Review by Jens

Published in 2002 in the USA by HarperTempest and in Great Britain the following year by HarperCollins Children’s Books, the book „Big Mouth & Ugly Girl“ by Joyce Carol Oates is staged in Rocky River, Westchester County.

The first chapter opens dramatically with two police officers visiting the school in search of Matthew „Big Mouth“ Donaghy. They take him to the principal’s office for interrogation and accuse him of a bomb threat on the school. The outcome takes the form of a suspension for Matt and a certain degree of information ending up on the news.

Ugly Girl, Ursula Riggs, isn’t one for make-up and dating, but prefers contact sports, such as basketball. Getting wind of conspiracy theories revolving around Matt she knows aren’t true, she marches of to confront the principal, although her associations with Matt are minimal.

Despite an appealing opening scene, the tension quickly fades away, dissolving into a drab and long-handled storyline. The ensueing story unfolds colorlessly and displays a lack of suspenseful highlights to reawaken the reader’s interest.

The book’s message is obviously the promotion of morality, integrity and the readiness to stand up for people, who are in need of help. Although I deem this message important, I find fault with its extremely obvious presentation in this book. Therefore I am of the opinion that this topic could be better conceived in combination with a different plot.

The main characters are simply uninteresting. Especially Ugly Girl comes to my attention as an unconvincing and unrealistic character, due to her doubtlessly unusual characteristics, which strike me as somewhat exaggerated. All in all the characters have nothing special about them.

As a result, I come to the conclusion that the main topic is worthy to be included in a book, but not as exemplefied here.

Finally, I think that, lack of good plot, jokes and action leaves 268 pages of boredom with maximum tranquilizing capabilities. I suggest it as a bedtime story, because you are guaranteed to fall asleep after a page.


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