Monday, July 9, 2018

Review: Baby Teeth

Summary: Afflicted with a chronic debilitating condition, Suzette Jensen knew having children would wreak havoc on her already fragile body. Nevertheless, she brought Hanna into the world, pleased and proud to start a family with her husband Alex. Estranged from her own mother, Suzette is determined to raise her beautiful daughter with the love, care, and support she was denied.

But Hanna proves to be a difficult child. Now seven-years-old, she has yet to utter a word, despite being able to read and write. Defiant and anti-social, she refuses to behave in kindergarten classes, forcing Suzette to homeschool her. Resentful of her mother’s rules and attentions, Hanna lashes out in anger, becoming more aggressive every day. The only time Hanna is truly happy is when she’s with her father. To Alex, she’s willful and precocious but otherwise the perfect little girl, doing what she’s told.

Suzette knows her clever and manipulative daughter doesn’t love her. She can see the hatred and jealousy in her eyes. And as Hanna’s subtle acts of cruelty threaten to tear her and Alex apart, Suzette fears her very life may be in grave danger… - St. Martin's Press

When Kathy and I met up in late May for BEA, she was very excited about a book she was reading on the plane. It was clear that she was shocked by some things that had happened in this novel and that she desperately wanted someone to talk to about it. That book was BABY TEETH by Zoje Stage.

So of course, I had to pick up BABY TEETH, right? My best friend couldn't stop talking about it, and despite her description of the book (it wasn't really up my alley), I decided to give it a try. Wow! I really don't have much more to say than that. (Yeah right!) It was one disturbing book about one scary little girl.

BABY TEETH tells the story of one out-of-sorts family. Suzette and Alex Jensen decide to have a child even though Suzette's body is already dealing with a chronic illness. They are determined to be good parents (especially Suzette who didn't have the best upbringing); however, their young daughter Hanna is quite the challenge -- and that's saying it nicely!

Hanna is seven years old and a holy terror. She has never said a single work, but she's clearly bright because she can read and write. She refuses to socialize with other kids and has even been kicked out of schools. As a result, Suzette is forced to homeschool her... and spend an awful amount of alone time with this difficult child.

It's clear that Hanna's behavior is getting worse. She lashes out and her mother and even starts deliberately trying to hurt her. The only time Hanna is even slightly sweet is when her father is around. He just sees his little girl as a strong-willed child, and he doesn't even come close to realizing how challenging Hanna is for his wife.

Things are tense in the Jensen house with Hanna causing the vast majority of the pain. However, Hanna's treatment of her mother escalates until it becomes a life-or-death situation for Suzette!

Now that you've read this description you are probably scratching your head a bit. Or at least that's what I did after Kathy told me about this book. It's creepy, right? But if you're a mom who had a strong-willed child, then this book is like your worst nightmare. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to enjoy this book, but I definitely wanted to see what it was all about.

Truth be told, I only liked this book (and liked is probably the wrong word.) While I didn't love this book, I was certainly intrigued (and scared as hell). BABY TEETH is a page turner -- no doubt about it. With alternating narratives between Suzette and Hanna, it's extremely interesting to follow their stories... and see how each one interprets similar events.

I have to wonder about the twisted nature of this story and what it says about the readers who like it. I'M JUST KIDDING, KATHY! There is a great deal to like about this novel from the writing, to the character development, to the pace of the novel, to the suspense. It all is quite well done, especially for a debut author. I just thought it was all a little uncomfortable, but then again, I'm not usually one to read creepy books (or watch creepy movies for that matter.)

And that brings me to my next point... I do think BABY TEETH would make a fantastically, scary movie. The novel even read and moved a bit like a movie. It was fast-paced with lots of action, and there were quite a few surprises in store for the readers. This is probably a testament to Ms. Stage, but I could visualize this little devil and her petrified mother perfectly!

One thing that left me scratching my head was the ending. It was not quite what I expected; and I'm not sure if, because of that, I liked it or not. I'm still trying to figure that out. Either way, I do think the author set us up for a potential sequel to Hanna's story. And I think that's a good thing because Hanna is one of those characters that you just want to understand... and see what other horrible things she can think of to do!

So... I had mixed feelings about BABY TEETH but I do think it's a well-written engaging story about a horrible child. I definitely recommend it to fans of thrillers and horror.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

As you know, I couldn't put this book down to begin with but then there were a couple scenes that I had trouble believing (like the capsule scene). I also had some issues with the ending - it felt incomplete. So, in the end, I didn't like this as much as I thought I was going to.

Dorothy N said...

You and Kathy have both sparked my curiosity about Baby Teeth. I have added it to my TBR. I always enjoy your honest opinions of the books you review.

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

This sounds terrifying!!