cover image BIG MOUTH & UGLY GIRL


Joyce Carol Oates, , read by Hilary Swank and Chad Lowe. . HarperChildren's Audio, $25 (, unabridged, four cassettes, 6 hrs., $25 ISBN p) ISBN 978-0-06-008969-6

Accomplished actors and real-life spouses Swank (Boys Don't Cry) and Lowe (Life Goes On) find a comfortable rhythm reading the alternating chapters from Oates' first YA novel. Swank is Ursula Riggs, whose alter-ego, "Ugly Girl," often gets her in a jam; Lowe plays Matt Donaghy, who readily admits to being a "Big Mouth." The two high school juniors barely know each other until the day Matt is accused of making terrorist threats at school. Ugly Girl quickly comes to Matt's defense, understanding that the offhand lunchroom remarks she heard him make were intended as a joke. The two become unlikely friends. As the consequences of Matt's actions unfold (and are resolved in somewhat bizarre fashion), Oates takes ample opportunity to comment on current events, media hype and high school life. Though they occasionally sound stiff during the earliest narrated passages, both performers shine in delivering Oates's snappy, realistic dialogue and the protagonists' e-mail transcripts. A Reading Group Guide of discussion questions from the publisher is included. Ages 13-up. (May)

FYI:Simultaneous release with the HarperTempest hardcover.