Review: BABY TEETH by Zoje Stage (2018)

Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2018
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: abuse, Crohn’s disease, parental neglect, attempted murder, hitting a child, gaslighting, burning

Usually when there is a horror trope of an evil child, the kid is either possessed or we see the entire thing from the parent’s point of view. In this book, we get the point of view of the mother, Suzette, and the daughter, Hannah. Suzette has Crohn’s disease, body image issues, and really wants a life that isn’t being a stay at home mother. Hannah, meanwhile, has been expelled from several kindergartens and refuses to speak. Something dark lurks beneath and she wants her mother out of the picture.

Baby Teeth is designed to make the reader deeply uncomfortable with sharp prose that’s intense from start to finish.

There are no winners in this grisly work of domestic terror. The primary tension here comes from expectations. Suzette has very specific ideas of how she was going to make up for her own shit childhood while Hannah has very specific ideas of how her relationship with her father looks like. (I will point out, this is not incestuous in any way, she just really hates her mother for reasons that are a mystery through the very end). The presentation is absolutely fascinating, and I found myself watching everything unfold while clutching the sides of my face. I wasn’t sure if I wanted either of them to win, and the ending is as hopeful as you can probably get.

What this book does, much like Schechter’s true crime works, it doesn’t specifically pathologize Hannah. I think it’d be easy for the work to have demonized something like autism, but it doesn’t go there (in fact, it’s specifically ruled out as a possibility from the very beginning). It can, however, be interpreted as such, so please be aware of that going in.

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