on July 17, 2018
Genres: Thriller, Mystery
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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.
Today is my stop on the St. Martin’s Press Blog Tour for Zoje Stage’s upcoming thriller, Baby Teeth. Thanks so much to St. Martin’s Press and Jordan Handley for inviting me to take part in this tour, and course to Zoje Stage for allowing me to preview her book.
Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth is a dark and twisted tale of a seven-year old girl named Hanna who has one goal in life – to get rid of her mother so that she and her father can live happily ever after together. As a mom, I found Baby Teeth to be perhaps my worst nightmare come true – that my child would hate me and want me gone – so in that sense, it was an incredibly uncomfortable read for me. At the same time, however, it was still such a riveting read that I couldn’t stop turning the pages no matter how uncomfortable it made me.
Hanna is a troubled young girl. For reasons doctors haven’t established yet, she does not speak. In addition to being mute, she also has severe behavioral issues and has thus been expelled from every school that her parents have enrolled her in. Suzette, Hanna’s mom, makes the decision to stay home with Hanna and home school her. It’s not a permanent solution but at least Hanna won’t fall behind academically until a better solution presents itself.
Somewhere along the way, Hanna decides that she hates her mother and only loves her daddy. While she and her mom are alone together all day, Hanna goes out of her way to let her mom know just how much she hates her and then even starts scheming about ways to get rid of her. Then when Daddy comes home, she turns on the sweetness and perfectly plays the role of Daddy’s little angel, keeping him in the dark about how she really feels about her mom and of course frustrating her mother to no end.
As Daddy remains oblivious to Hanna’s dark side even as Hanna steps up her attacks on her mom, Suzette truly begins to fear for her own safety. Can she get through to her husband and make him understand that they have a serious problem on their hands with Hanna before it’s too late?
It’s hard to review books like this because I don’t want to give away any of the twist and turns that make it such a compelling read, but here are some elements of Baby Teeth that I really thought the author did a wonderful job with:
Two Points of View – I thought it was brilliant to present this story in alternating chapters between Suzette and Hanna. Being able to get a glimpse inside each of their heads as this disturbing family dynamic played out was what really made the book such an engaging read for me.
Suzette’s perspective was especially easy to relate to because all she can think about is what did she do wrong as a mother to make Hanna hate her so much. Not only does she question where she went wrong as a parent, but then she feels tremendous guilt because there are times when Hannah pushes the envelope so far, that Suzette finds herself thinking horrible things about her child and sometimes even saying horrible things to her because she has been pushed to her limit. In many ways, Suzette starts to really question herself as a mom. How could she possibly think such terrible things about her child, who she really does love with all her heart, no matter how troubled she is? Again, I found Suzette’s perspective to be very relatable and could imagine myself thinking many of the same things if I was in her shoes.
Hanna’s perspective added another disturbing layer to the narrative because even a quick glance at what’s going on inside her head reveals that she is truly a troubled little girl on many levels. She’s callous, unfeeling, manipulative, and frankly, just all around creepy. As soon as I’d read a chapter from Hanna, I’d instantly be all the more sympathetic to Suzette because she clearly had her hands full and was on her own thanks to Daddy Oblivious falling for all of Hanna’s tricks.
Twists and Turns – Another aspect of Baby Teeth that really entertained me was that it was fast-paced and filled with twists and turns that constantly kept me guessing about what was really going on with Hanna. At times, the story had the feel of a horror movie so it really had me considering any and all possible explanations for Hanna’s behavior – is it psychological? Are we going to find out she was somehow abused? Is there something supernatural afoot? I liked that the story really had me open to so many possibilities, no matter how over the top they seemed.
I’m guessing that you’ve picked up on the fact that I was not a huge fan of Hanna’s dad. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt – that Hanna was just that good of a manipulator – but it really just frustrated me to no end that he just didn’t get how dysfunctional their whole family situation was and how troubled his daughter truly was.
The only other real issue I had with Baby Teeth was that sometimes I found it hard to believe that a 7-year old child could devise some of the intricate and truly evil plots that Hanna came up with against her mother. I know some kids are more precocious than others, but some of her schemes and just some of her thoughts in general came across as way too sophisticated for a child of that age. In some ways it bothered me because I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it and sometimes it felt like maybe the author was just trying too hard to make the book shocking, but at the same time, it still kind of worked for me because it made my own imagination run wild, which added to the dark and twisted nature of the book and to the horror vibe that I was already feeling: Does she have multiple personality disorder or some other mental illness? Is she a psychopath? Do we have a case of The Exorcist going on here? Has she been possessed? Those last ones probably sound a little silly, but the book really just sucks you in that much!
Baby Teeth is sure to please readers who enjoy thrillers and/or horror. It’s a wild, dark, and twisted ride that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat as you watch the battle between Hanna and Suzette play out.
WATCH THE TRAILER FOR BABY TEETH
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ENTER THE GIVEAWAY FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN AN ARC of BABY TEETH (U.S. residents only, sorry!)
Use the Rafflecopter below to enter for your chance to win an ARC of this book. I have 3 copies to give away and the giveaway will run until June 8th. Please be sure to follow me on twitter as I plan to DM the three winners to get mailing addresses. I do apologize in advance that this giveaway is U.S. only since I always prefer to do international. I have the ARCs in hand to pass along to the winners and sadly I just can’t afford to ship them internationally. 🙁