Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

baby teethBaby Teeth
By Zoje Stage
Available 7/17/18
Publisher: St. Martins Press
ISBN: 9781250170750
Pages: 320
Genre: Thriller/Mystery

goodreads-badge-add-plus

Sweetness can be deceptive. 

Meet Hanna.

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.

Meet Suzette.

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.


My Thoughts

Warning: This one is a bit winded. I have edited and edited, but I have a few things to say.

Baby Teeth starts off with a promising narrative that alternates between 7-year-old Hanna and her mother Suzette. Hanna has yet to begin speaking but is otherwise highly intelligent. She loves her daddy dearly and feels that her mother is coming between them and the life they should have together. She will stop at nothing to remove Suzette from the equation.

Suzette loves Hanna, but is struggling to understand her silence and constant bad behavior that ironically never occurs when her husband is present. She is searching for answers while dealing with her own personal battle with Crohn’s disease that includes a history of surgeries and many complicated symptoms. She is exhausted and increasingly concerned with Hanna’s behavioral issues and her husband’s obliviousness to it all.

“Hanna kept her words to herself because they gave her power. Inside her, they retained their purity. She scrutinized Mommy and other adults, studied them. Their words fell like dead bugs from their mouths. A rare person like Daddy, spoke in butterflies, whispering colors that made her gasp.”

I have read several other reviews and spoken with a few friends in the book community, and I know that one question revolving around Baby Teeth has been how parents will handle a thriller that involves an “evil” child. Personally, as a mother, I can say I find myself drawn to them! I am not exactly sure what this says to me, but I have always gravitated towards films and books such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Good Son, etc. Perhaps it is the fact that I am a parent that makes them more thrilling or terrifying and this is where I often find success in them? Or perhaps it is my continuing fascination with the human psyche and behavior?

Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth starts off strong, striving to be no exception. The decision to split the narrative works brilliantly, pitting mother and daughter against one another and exposing the reader to various family dynamics. It sets a promising stage that is likely to deliver for many readers. However, I encountered some major obstacles that greatly impacted my time with the story and not in the best of ways.

“Now that she knew the name of the game – Scare Mommy – she should be able to defend herself. But goosebumps rose on her skin, even under the heat of the water, when she thought about her creepy daughter. The whites of her eyes. Her ability to sneak up on her as she slept.” 

Hanna’s narrative was inconsistent when compared to that of a 7-year-old. I tried to suspend belief and go with it, as I understand this is fiction and she is certainly not your average child. But, in the end, these constant fluctuations between childlike and adult mentality became too much. Throughout story progression, her actions and the possibility of them continued to lose credibility. As a result, the tension was slowly stripped away from about 50% on.

Suzette was also deeply flawed as a character. I was sympathetic to her plight, having no real sense of what my own composure would be under such circumstances, but her affection for Hanna was suspicious and wavering early on. This drove an immediate wedge between us.

“It was hard to pour endless love into someone who wouldn’t love you back. No one could do it forever.” 

A large portion of the content felt gratuitous. There was even one particular scene that I believe was added for increased shock appeal that I can actually say I wish had been avoided. It was tactless and improbable. There is no true mystery in Baby Teeth and the ending was fittingly my final disappointment. It was a predictable cliché.

I will admit that Stage’s writing is not without merit. She offers readers a fluid experience that moves at a desirable pace for a thriller. Even with the hurdles I encountered, this was an effortless read. The narration was seamless and concise. Fans of thrillers that are willing to suspend disbelief and seeking a fast read will likely find enjoyment in Baby Teeth. For myself, there was a disconnect with the characters that I never fully recovered from.

Contains some violence, sexual content and themes of chronic illness.

*I would like to thank St. Martins Press for this advanced copy. The quotes included above are from the advanced copy and subject to change. This review is my own, unbiased and honest opinion.

tea cup

 

Pair this fast-paced read with a crisp herbal mint blend.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com Book Depository

*Disclosure: I use affiliate links and may earn a small commission for purchases made through them. Click here for details.

Happy Reading,

signature

Connect With Me: FacebookTwitterTumblr and Instagram

 

61 thoughts on “Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

  1. This sounds like something I’d read but it’s a shame the writing sounds like it doesn’t deliver. I’m also kind of drawn to the ‘evil child’ narrative when it comes to films and books so I totally understand where you’re coming from there. Have you ever read ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ is actually on my tbr! So you recommend it?

      This one will be fine for readers who either a) have no problem with spending belief and just going with or b) have little to no experience with children and are less likely to be hung up on how unrealistic some of Hanna’s narrative was.

      Like

    1. The biggest issue here for me was Hanna. I expected to suspend some belief because she is “evil” per day, but given the insight we are with her narrative it failed. Her mentality fluctuates too greatly between child and too mature. Plus one particular scenes that was clearly for shock appeal was just tasteless and well dumb haha.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Haha it’s more like I have no clue what I’m doing and I think they smell my inner fear. xD There have been exceptions later so maybe there is still hope for the future haha.

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha this was just good at first and then unraveled into a bit of a mess. One scene that I will describe as being added clearly for shock appeal was just so off putting. It added nothing and was ugh. Hanna’s mentality was all over the place. A 7 yr old who acts like a child one minute and then a manipulative adult the next.. just no.

      Like

      1. Yup that’s why I didn’t want to pick this up, sounded too mature for so young. One thing I didn’t like about Prince of Thorns MC. Behavior belies age.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. Nah, don’t be. I read the whole series. It was fine. I bet you enjoy it!
            Happy independence day! Fireworks are practically shaking my house and that is just the neighborhood. City’s hasn’t happened yet (but that’s 4-6 blocks away).

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmm. I have to admit the premise of this made me think ooh I gotta get it lol. Not sure what that says about ME ha ha. But yeah predictable… that’s a bummer. And unrealistic too… another strike. I might give it a shot but it’s good to know, I’ll keep my expectations in check. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve seen other reviews for this and just how the little girl is described feeling about her daddy made me cringe.

    I’ve never read any “bad child” books, so I don’t have any baselines for comparison, but on the whole, I doubt I could handle them 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. What a fantastic and helpful review, Danielle. I won a copy of this in a giveaway and at first I saw nothing but glowing reviews for it, now several are emerging similar to yours. I will read it at some point but your review has helped me set my expectations at the right level so thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ve been very curious about Baby Teeth do really appreciate your honest and thorough review. I was on the fence about it, and now know that it’s a good one for me to pass on. I grew weary of the young narrator in Only Child and am not ready for another one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Honestly, I know this one will find a solid audience. But Hanna’s narrative was to all over the place. Her cognitive level fluctuates between little child (where she should be) to adult minded, master manipulator. It made no sense to me. So if you are like me and not willing to suspend belief that much, skip it.

      Like

  6. Great review! This is why I can´t find it in me to read this book. It´s has an “evil” child in it. It´s not so much the evil child part that´s bothering… It´s because a kid, in general, is involved. I can´t read books with children in it. If a kid is mentioned in the end- great. I can live with that. But a child that plays a large roll in books? That´s when I give up. It freaks me out. It´s weird because I love graphic novels. I can read about anything questionable or controversial without even flinching. It´s the same with movies. I enjoy horror / splatter / gore / psycho horror but I have a hard time watching those movies when kids are involved. Hell, I can´t even watch Baby Boom ( the 1987 romance comedy with Diane Keaton ). I leave the room.
    I´m glad you read the book, though. Lol. You´re review just solidified my decision in never reading it. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Wonderful, wonderful Danielle. If this review is long-winded, well, it’s amazing anyone reads my blog! I obviously struggle with brevity. You think that blogging would help that. Alas.

    !!! This review echoes my heart so much. I haven’t read Baby Teeth, but every time I’ve read a review I’ve thought the same things. Hanna sounds grossly mature for 7 years and Suzette seems grossly naive. What is going on here?! Did you at least enjoy the overall reading experience?

    One of my book clubs is reading Rosemary’s Baby this coming October. I am both excited and anxious. You enjoy it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did not end up favoring this. I enjoyed it initially until it became clear just how “flawed” both characters and narratives were. Then I was just disengaged. This is a hard pass for you 😉

      Rosemary’s Baby I am reading in October actually! I love the classic film so much! I watch it a few times a year haha. I am told the book is better so hopefully we are both in for a treat!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m really curious which scene you’re singling out as gratuitous, just because a couple immediately spring to mind as potential hurdles for readers. I didn’t struggle with Hanna’s perspective while reading but, having it pointed out, I definitely can see some inconsistencies. Especially the childish language combined with sometimes sophisticated planning. But, since it didn’t distract me while reading, I can’t fault Stage too much.

    I love hearing your perspective on Suzette! I’m not a parent and have no desire for children, so her ambivalence and uncertainty were so relatable since that’s how I imagine my own reaction to having a kid of my own would be! That was one of my big gaps of experience though: wondering how she would look to another mom, as opposed to a single woman not currently planning on a family. And I agree that the ending was a weaker point, although I never expected Stage to go “there” since a darker, more extreme conclusion would likely alienate even more readers.

    I loved getting to read your take on this so soon after finishing it myself 🙂 Hopefully Stage chooses a more relatable, but equally creepy, scenario for her next novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always so fun to compare different perspectives on stories and characters such as this!!! One scene in particular (trying to avoid spoilers here) was Hanna’s little reenactment in the bedroom. That was just unrealistic, over the top, and handle in the most unbelievable manner. A. No child of that age could pull that off just with the small bit she witnessed of her parents and b. A mother would be flipping out full blown investigation. I think it did me in honestly.

      But I know that I could pick it apart all day and manner readers who choose to take is for what it is and roll with it will find fast entertainment. I do agree about your point with the ending. Two other possibly options come to mind and no one would be happy with them 🤣

      Like

      1. That was my first guess! I agree, it…stuck out more than the other instances of Hanna acting out. In the end I was surprised that was the only incident with that tone. If Hanna fixated on it once I would have thought she’d try something similar again, or else it wouldn’t have occurred to her at all. (My other guess was the bedroom booby-trap later on, just because the aftermath made my skin crawl.)

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Definitely one I want to read. I don’t have kids but I’ve always been drawn to the evil kids cliche in movies and books. I would highly recommend The Children (1980) if you haven’t seen it. A little campy but I thought the concept was kind of terrifying.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Great review, Danielle. The inconsistency in the narrative is something I think you also noted from Room by Emma Donaghue. It’s definitely not easy to make a voice that flows perfectly and never falters. The family dynamics explored here however still sound pretty awesome. Hourray for evil kids. As long as they’re not ours, and they’re fictional!! 😀 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, yes I am a sucker for the “not mine” evil child scenario. But I am also a tad picky about children narratives I guess. They can be hard to nail. If the author is too unrealistic (such as here) I am lost to it. I would not have minded the narrative so much if the whole story held that unrealistic vibe, but it just did not work in this case for me. I am sure many others will actually love it!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I think people who are parents can still enjoy topics like this in books. At the end it’s fiction, and revolves around psychology a bit, and that’s pretty fascinating. Like i love domestic thrillers and marriage drama in books, but at the same time i still want to get married at one point, and the books didn’t make me think it will go badly.

    I wondered about Hanna being so mature at times, but since i don’t know any 7 year old in person, i thought maybe that’s how they are. I saw a documentary about some girl who was a psychopath and 6 years old, and to me she sounded like she was older. But again, maybe they told her what to say…

    So yea, all in all i did like this book, but i think mainly cuz of how they emphasized mental illness being a real thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There were definitely a few good points of the book for sure and it had originally started off strong for me. I do acknowledge that my exposure to children probably made me “picky” in terms of Hanna’s narrative more so than some might be. As a result, I disconnected. If the mental health had taken more of a forefront then I definitely think this one would have been more rewarding for me. But I have no doubt it will find a solid audience 😊

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.