Monday, March 5, 2018

Review: Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hannah loves her Daddy. But Mommy can be a handful. And Mommy is always getting in the way. So what to do about that? Baby Teeth is a strange, thrilling twist on the mother-daughter dynamic.

Hannah is seven years old and refuses to speak--there is no physical cause to her not vocalizing. She doesn't attend school because she cannot behave. Her mother Suzette is stuck at home with her all day long, as well as dealing with all the complications of her Crohn's Disease. And so Hannah, who desperately wants to spend time with her Daddy, comes up with a number of plans to get rid of Mommy for good.

Like any family, the reader gets multiple sides of the truth from the perspectives of both Hannah and Suzette, with Alex's perspective conveniently left out because he is the quintessential clueless father, wanting to be great at being a dad and a husband, but distancing himself from both just enough to not have to take any of the blame for what goes on when he's not there. When you think you are ready to sympathize with one, you start to question what you believe and begin believing in the motives of the other, even if it's just for a few pages.

If you are at all uncomfortable with creepy children, this book is not for you. But if you can get past the terrifying thoughts of Hannah, you can begin to unravel what may be the real cause of all this upheaval. Even at the end of the book, it's up to the reader as to what led this family that point--is Hannah simply suffering from a controllable mental illness? Is she a psychopath that cannot be treated or trusted? Is she really possessed by the ghost of a centuries-old witch, burned at the stake?

And then you have to consider Suzette--she presents herself as a mother who may not be perfect, but is trying her best to be as good of a mother as she can be to this little girl. However, her Crohn's is draining and at certain points debilitating. Her own mother had no affection for her after the death of her father, to the point where her physical health put her life at risk as a teen. She also at a point questions how good of an idea it was to have a child, knowing that it forever changed her relationship with her husband. And when Hannah's games get dangerous, Suzette uses every ounce of restraint to let Hannah believe she is playing her game and not scared by her.

If you treat Baby Teeth as a mystery to unravel rather than a horror story (which it seems like on the surface), it is a fascinating piece of fiction.

*Book provided by NetGalley

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