Reviews

Baby Teeth

“It was hard to pour endless love into someone who wouldn’t love you back. No one could do it forever...”

Seven years ago, Alex and Suzette had a beautiful baby girl, who they called Hanna. Now they aren’t sure who their daughter is or what she needs. For one thing, she still doesn’t talk, and they have no idea why.

Hanna has other things on her mind like being Daddy’s ‘sweet-but-silent’ little angel, not going to school, and getting exactly what she wants. Only now she’s decided that she only wants one thing: her own happy ending. But there’s someone in the family who isn’t included in that picture anymore…

Wow, what do I say first?? Baby Teeth was insane, it was emotional, it was disturbing, and it was so riveting. I haven’t read anything else like it.

The thing this book does best is to weedle its way into your mind and set up shop. The author knows exactly which beats to hit along the way to send a shiver down your spine or make you stare at the book in appalled disbelief. More than once, I found myself up at night just thinking about this book. It is a perfectly unsettling adventure through this family’s life, and I would bet it’d be even more powerful if you’re a parent yourself. I read this book for my mark-up book exchange so I made notes in the book while reading, and there were so many times that I stopped, searching for the right words, only to end up writing just “…wow.” Sometimes the bite of this book left me speechless.

The subjects alone are enough to disturb any self-respecting person, but that’s not what makes it special. What makes this story so special is that it takes these distressing, confusing, sinister elements, a lot of them classic tropes, and then weaves them into her characters lives with an incredible amount of heart. I didn’t expect my heart to be so conflicted or broken open by a thriller! So much happens in this book and there are times when it’s almost impossible to tell who you’re supposed to feel the most for: the parents? The child? Everyone involved? (Which is where I landed, dang.) But the beauty of it is that every reader has to decide that for themselves. Her ability to shift such intense and full empathy onto every character, especially juxtaposed with the subject matter, is one of the most compelling things I’ve read in a long time.

A third aspect of this book that I loved was the authentic and relatable way that the author wrote a character living with a chronic illness. Suzette, the mother of this family, has Crohn’s Disease and it plays a huge part in her ability to care for family, to make decisions, even to live and work and feel like she has enough energy to be a whole person. I wasn’t expecting this in a suspense novel, but I needed it so badly. As someone else living with a chronic condition, it was obvious to me that Stage was writing from firsthand experience. So many subtle moments of Suzette’s suffering made me go “me too!” and to see and acknowledge that as a valid, human part of this story was a brilliant decision on the author’s part. Very well done.

From the very first chapter I felt a driving force pulling me further and further into the book. Every time I set it down I would end up glancing back over at it a few minutes later and, before I knew it, I’d be nose deep in it again. I had to finish, I had to know what happened. And one of the brilliant, most aggravating things about this book is…I still want to know more. That ending– gah! I wish to death that this book had a sequel, I would read it in a heartbeat. Something about the way that Zoje Stage chose to write this story has made me infinitely hungry for more: the choices in how its told, the style she wrote it in, the empathy and fear that she employs so skillfully.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fiction that doesn’t flinch. Stage has written something so addictive and hypnotic that I finished it in two days while on a busy trip to Cleveland, which is saying something! This book is visceral, intense, and never looks away from the disquieting story it has to tell you. Enter at your own risk, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did once you’re on the other side.

Now write me a sequel, Zoje!

“Sweetness can be deceptive.”

2 thoughts on “Baby Teeth”

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