I received an Advance Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Ah, Zoje Stage. I would say “you’ve done it again” if this wasn’t your first novel.
Baby Teeth was an absolute masterpiece of manipulation and terror, a constant flip-flopping back and forth between being on Hanna’s side and being on Suzette’s side while Alex remained on the outskirts, never a part of the battle between mother and daughter. I was never sure who to trust, never sure who was the sane one, and in the end, I’m still not. I’m not convinced any of them were sane, to be honest.
The book itself was amazing, and I tore through it in less than two days, needing to know how it all ended–was there really anything wrong with Hanna? And what was going on with Suzette? Would Alex pick a side, or would he try to remain distant from it all as he had been? There were so many times Hanna’s manipulation was so good that even I believed her–I, the reader who had seen her darkest innermost thoughts on the page, believed she was a good child who just wanted to be loved; I, the reader who knew from the beginning that she had a darkness with her.
Psychopathy wasn’t even mentioned until about three-fourth’s of the way through the book, when Suzette and Alex take Hanna to a therapist to try and work out some issues after a dramatic incident involving a mini-bonfire and a centuries’-old witch.
On that note, Marie-Anne Duffoset was such an interesting addition to the cast of characters as well, playing the part of Hanna’s evil side when, in reality, Hanna was just evil. She didn’t need some witchy persona to offer her up to the devil; she was already too far gone, dreaming up ways to murder Bad Mommy in the night with a hammer and thumbtacks.
Yet still I didn’t quite believe it either, that Hanna was irreparable. Even when she printed out pictures of Suzette while sleeping and pasted them beside post-mortem photos from the eighteenth century, even when she sent an autistic boy into a frenzy that made him slam his head against the wall until he needed stitches, even when she took Suzette’s pills and replaced the medicine with flour, even when she set garbage cans on fire and gave Suzette a gift box full of dead spiders.
It wasn’t until the end that I understood.
I’m not going to spoil it here, so don’t worry. Just know it was partly what I expected and then partly a major twist, and I mean major. It’s hard to explain, however. Nothing necessarily happened, not physically. Instead, there was an emotional shift between Suzette and Alex at the absolute last moment that changed everything. I went from being in tears over the past few chapters to being absolutely shocked by the dramatic lurch from two main characters I had empathized with up until that point. It was a shock, and I loved every second of it just as I loved every second of this book.
I feel like I’ve already said too much, and I can’t say much more without inducing major spoilers, so I’ll just say this: read the book when it comes out. It’s amazing. The writing can be a little dense sometimes–not in a bad way, just in a ‘this is a lot to process’ way, so if you’re looking for a light read, this is not it. Baby Teeth not only deals with the idea of child psychopathy, it also deals with abuse, chronic illnesses of the mental and physical variety, and so many other important concepts.
Give it a look. I highly recommend it.