Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
Published by St. Martin’s Press on July 17, 2018
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Goodreads avg: 3.83(as of 2018-07-31)
cw: medical PTSD; domestic abuse; gaslighting
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.
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.
From blazing new talent Zoje Stage, Baby Teeth is a story about a perfect-looking family, and a darling little girl who wants nothing more than to kill her mother.
I skimmed through Goodreads reviews before writing mine and it seems like this is a very divisive book. The average rating isn’t bad, but there are a lot of 1-2 star reviews out there, and the writers seem livid about this book. As you can see above, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. I picked this one up because I love psychological thrillers, and I was really intrigued by the concept and I thought that Zoje Stage followed through remarkably.
Hanna and Suzette are the main characters of this story, and I felt that the author did a great job of bringing them to life. Suzette is dealing with Crohn’s (this is an ownvoices book!), as well as her psychopathic daughter who gaslights her at every turn and you have to feel empathetic for her. I could just feel the exhaustion pouring out of her as she struggled with her day-to-day tasks. It wasn’t long before I felt like I wanted Hanna off my hands, too.
The thing is, even though I know that the things this kid does is wrong and even though I want Suzette’s life to turn around, Zoje also makes us feel sympathetic for Hanna. I could understand the simplistic thought processes that led her to hate her mother, and I longed for her to realize that she was wrong. This isn’t a black-and-white story where the child is irredeemably horrible for no reason, it really deals with the subjectivity of actions and morality.
Overall, I found it to be an enjoyable read. I got through it quickly and found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading.I was satisfied by most of the ending, but didn’t love the very last bit of it. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who likes creepy kids and disturbing stories.