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.
I’m going to start by saying that this book is probably not going to be for everyone. Our “Big Bad” in this case is a seven-year-old girl, so it may lead to a little bit of weirdness for some. And that’s okay - it’s your reading life! But, that uncomfortable factor is why I enjoyed it. Well, that and I was able to empathize with Suzette - something I’ll get into later.
Baby Teeth is the first from Zoje Stage, and it’s a delightfully twisted piece of work. Ms. Stage fearlessly ties in a couple of common suspense tropes and does so with style.
Suzette never really had a proper mother/daughter relationship and spent most of her life dealing with illness, so when Hanna comes along, she is determined to do what is best for her. Only Hanna is a little different. When we first meet her, we learn Hanna is non-verbal. Like most little girls, Hanna’s heart belongs to Daddy. And only Daddy. Her affection doesn’t extend even a little bit to her mother. In fact, she hates Suzette and would much rather she wasn’t around, something husband Alex can’t see, even when Suzette tells him. Hanna is always a perfect little angel when Daddy’s around (Hands up all the Mamas who know that feeling!).
Told in two points of view (both Suzette and Hanna), we learn what’s going through the minds of both, and both can be a little dark.
Seriously. We’re not talking about putting the “fun” in dysfunctional here.
As Suzette struggles to maintain her relationship with both her husband and her daughter, as well as her hold on her sanity, Hanna’s behavior escalates dramatically, setting the stage for some genuinely jaw-dropping and creepy moments. And moments where you to grab the main characters around the collar and yell “What the ACTUAL HECK!”.
But, I get it. I really do.
I’ve read a lot of reviews where people feel the subject matter in Baby Teeth is too uncomfortable and a little unrealistic. Not me. While I felt Hanna may have been aged a little young for some of her schemes, I had empathy for Suzette. This may be a little TMI, but I have a bipolar son, and once he reached a certain age, there were times when we felt genuinely concerned for our safety. We were abused and threatened pretty regularly, sometimes physically. He destroyed property and mementos and yes, sometimes he would do stuff to our personal belongings. At one point, we had our bedroom door alarmed and had law-enforcement on speed dial, just in case. So I understand that fear, and I understand how difficult it is to voice it to other people, including mental health professionals. You feel like (and in some instances, are actually viewed as) a bad parent. You’re not always believed, especially when that behavior is often behind closed doors and not in public view. Ms. Stage, with (I assume!) no actual experience of parenting a troubled child, managed to nail those feelings.
At this point, all I can say is that it’s up to you. Baby Teeth is definitely different, but if you think you can cope with our “Little Bad”, then definitely give it a go. Happy reading!
I was provided this book for free by St. Martin's Press (via Netgalley ) in return for my honest opinion. Please note that some links in this book may be affiliate links to help us keep the lights on :)