Title: Baby Teeth
Author: Zoje Stage
Page Count: 304 pages
Rating: 3.5 / 5 ✨✨✨
She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.
She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.
“It was hard to pour endless love into someone who wouldn’t love you back. No one could do it forever.”
Spooky kids in horror are one of my favorite tropes. I love how sinister it can seem for a small, innocent child to have devilish intentions, and how creepy in particular little girls are in the world of horror. From The Ring, scary movies have proven to me that tiny girls can provide BIG scares in little packages.
Even separate from the more supernatural part of the genre is THE GOOD SON-esque argument that sometimes, kids are just born bad. They’re evil from the start, and they go on to do evil things. This is more widely recognized now as being largely due to some sort of personality or empathy disorder, but the facts of the matter remain: these kids are scary.
In BABY TEETH, we’re introduced to Hanna and her parents. Hanna loves her father, and is on her best behavior whenever he’s around. With her mother, however, she’s another little girl entirely. I didn’t know if this one would be spooky, and it did turn out to be more of a thriller than what I’d lump in as “horror”, but it kept me on my toes.
Hanna’s mother Suzette is at her wits end, struggling with a chronic illness as well as a dangerously malevolent daughter. The chapters spent with Suzette allow a look into the overwhelmed mind of a mother at war with her body, her health, and her daughter. She’s unsure of how to fix things, but keeps trying because it’s what she feels she should do. This sort of dedication as a mother to a child that very clearly wants nothing to with her would probably be pretty relatable to the parents of teens – but little Hanna is only seven, and her disdain of her mother seems a lot more malicious.
This was a pretty quick read, although I found a bit of the middle to be repetitive. I felt for Suzette and her difficult circumstances, but she seemed to cross over a line from being a protagonist I could relate to and empathize with, and one that felt weak and a little difficult to believe. As many other reviewers have mentioned, why doesn’t she utilize the wonderful world of modern technology to help document the wacky stuff Hanna does? This was a gaping plot hole that I kept coming back to, and one that could have easily changed the entire book.
That said, I did enjoy my time spent with the world built by Stage, and her writing was easy to get sucked into and swept away by. She has another book coming out in the summertime called WONDERLAND, and I am so excited to pick it up! Big thanks as well to E for buddy reading this one with me.
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