Book Review: Baby Teeth
by: Zoje Stage
Publication Date: July 17, 2018
Date Finished: July 21, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Format Read: Netgalley E-book
I was provided with a free e-copy of Baby Teeth from Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher. All opinions expressed below are my own.
Baby Teeth is told using dual points of view - seven year old Hanna and her mother, Suzette. The reader learns early that Hanna has had elective mutism her whole life. She has learned how to get her way and refuses to attend any school, so she is home-schooled by her mother. She adores her father and will do anything to earn his love and attention. She despises her mother and wants her out of the picture. Baby Teeth tells the story of how a family copes with a smart and manipulative child.
Marketed as a psychological thriller, for me Baby Teeth read as a somewhat depressing character study. I personally struggle when I dislike all of the narrators, which unfortunately was the case for Baby Teeth. Hanna is written as a very disturbed child. Her mother appears weak and also seems to pack some psychological baggage of her own. While the author did a fabulous job writing these unlikeable characters, they made it difficult for me on a personal level to connect with the book.
What makes someone a psychopath? Is it nature or nurture? Can you spot these tendencies in a young child? What makes someone a good or a bad mother? These questions are all explored in Baby Teeth.
At one point, the author introduces more of a supernatural feel while hinting at the possibility of a demonic/witch possession...but this storyline doesn't really go anywhere. I anticipated more twists and more horror, which unfortunately didn't deliver. I wanted to love this one, but was left feeling underwhelmed.
Overall, I rate Baby Teeth 2.5 (rounded up to 3) stars. It is a long glimpse into the head of a disturbed child and her mother. While I personally question the likelihood of Hanna being so psychologically affected while also maintaining such a high level of intelligence and choosing not to talk from age 1 (when children start talking), I do feel like the author did a tremendous job in building a horrifying world for Suzette. I'm curious to see what a child psychologist would think of this one! Overall, the lack of believability and the missing character to root for made this a difficult read for me. That being said, I think many readers, especially those who adore psychological thrillers, will gobble this one right up.