Title: Baby Teeth
Author: Zoje Stage
Genre(s): Mystery, Thriller
Release Date: July 17, 2018
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Sweetness can be deceptive.
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.
Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to read a book about a psychotic 7-year-old girl intent on killing her mother right before going to bed… Especially since I am the mother of a 7-year-old girl…
Fortunately, my daughter is a very normal, stable child who loves me very much so I have nothing to worry about. Hanna, on the other hand, absolutely loathes her mother. The only person Hanna loves is her daddy, Alex, and she is a perfectly innocent, sweet little girl around him. Some of the things she says and does, the ways in which she is able to manipulate her father and the people around her, are just mind-blowing. She is incredibly intelligent and uses that to her advantage, making sure she leaves no trace of her misbehavior behind. Which means there is no evidence for Suzette to show Alex to prove that she’s not crazy, exaggerating, or outright making stuff up. The narrative switches back and forth between Hanna and Suzette’s points of view and while reading from Suzette’s perspective, the reader can really feel her strained patience and frustration with Hanna’s escalating actions, along with her intense fear, self-doubt, and desperation for Alex to understand.
I also really liked that the author included Hanna’s point of view, although those parts scared me (
a lot) a little. Despite being highly intelligent, her mind is incredibly dark and disturbing. She is absolutely seething with hatred for her mother, but also fantasizes about hurting other people – even people who she has no reason to dislike, such as her classmates and the teachers at her school. It seems like the only person truly safe from Hanna is her father, and that’s only because he doesn’t recognize (or refuses to acknowledge) her dark side.
However, I will admit the book really pushes the envelope in terms of believability, which was a big drawback for me. I had a hard time believing that all of Hanna’s thoughts were that of a 7-year-old child, even one as intelligent and mentally unstable as Hanna. Also, as the mother of 3 speech-delayed children, I don’t think the author handled Hanna’s supposed muteness as well as she could have. The book implies that choosing to be mute didn’t interfere with Hanna’s development in other areas or her daily routine at all, which is just not realistic. It claims that Suzette was able to homeschool Hanna and successfully teach her how to read and write without any established form of communication, such as sign language in lieu of verbal speech. Being mute and unable (or unwilling) to effectively communicate affects many aspects of everyday life, more than people realize.
Overall, Baby Teeth was a very creepy and unsettling read. Although I had some problems with the believability of certain parts, it was well-written, intriguing, and thoroughly engrossing. I realize this isn’t going to be a book for everyone, but I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more from this author.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Thank you to St Martin’s Press and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book for free in exchange for my honest review.