Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Review: Baby Teeth - Zoje Stage

Baby Teeth
by Zoje Stage 
Published: July 17, 2018 by St Martin's Press
Genre: Fiction, Thriller

Sweetness can be deceptive. 

Meet Hanna.

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.

Meet Suzette.

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.

3.5 Stars

Hanna is seven and she is out to get her mother, at least that's what Suzette believes. Others see a quiet girl who plays best alone, but Suzette knows otherwise. Hanna wants mommy out of the picture and she'll do anything to get rid of her.

I came out of this pleasantly surprised, finding myself aching for Hanna and Suzette and the unaware Alex. Baby Teeth has been surrounded by controversial hype for months, labeled a creepy thriller you won't be able to put down. Alternating chapter viewpoints give us insight into little Hanna and her mother, Suzette's, daily life. I admit the psychological aspect is what drew me in, I really had no interest in a creepy seven year old, but ultimately I found myself enthralled by Hanna's perspective. She's incredibly smart, a gifted little girl, and mute. Suzette is a difficult character, almost unreliable as a narrator. She's focused on her image, missing a normalcy she's created in her head, and nearly obsessive compulsive about cleaning. I found myself both understanding her fear of Hanna, but also pitying her for her immature viewpoints. She's naive, selfish, and very hard to root for. The two, ultimately, are out to get each other.

What starts as creep, and had me fairly scared of finishing the novel, soon turns into more of a psychological drama. As readers we hurt for secondary character Alex, caught in the middle between a mother and a daughter who, quite frankly, don't seem to really like each other at all. It's a he-said she-said battle, one that ultimately made my heart ache. Suzette deals with a debilitating illness throughout the novel and I found that Hanna really just was a child gone undiagnosed, no creepiness to it. I don't think this should be considered a thriller, with no plot twist and no real fear built into it, but as a general read it is enjoyable.

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