Small Avalanches and Other Stories by Joyce Carol Oates

Small Avalanches and Other Stories by Joyce Carol Oates

Oates, Joyce Carol. Small Avalanches and Other Stories. Harper Teen, 2004. ISBN 978-0060012199 400 pp. $


Oates’ collection of previously published short stories thought to have teen appeal is dedicated “for the bad girls.” Quite fitting, for protagonists include sisters who deliberately destroy their twice-divorced mother’s relationship with a new potential mate; Melissa, who willingly trades a friend’s life for her own; Sunny, whose refusal of a marriage proposal drives a boy to suicide; and Melanie, who lets her beautiful but naïve cousin Steff take off with a man she meets on the Internet. Stranger danger abounds in these stories as girls on the brink of womanhood lose their innocence through interaction with pedophiles, crazy neighbors, and other shady characters.

Oates adeptly portrays that tensions of wanting to be a grownup and a little girl all at once, and chronicles the way girls change sleekly change personas, depending on whom they are talking to. The literary merit of the collection is to be expected from the winner of the Pen/Malamud Lifetime Achievement Award in Short Fiction; the language feels surreal in most stories, and dialogue is not typical casual teenspeak. The stories are technically flawless, but wouldn’t be my first choice for a booktalk; 4 stars for writing, 2 for teen appeal = 3 stars.

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