Based on an arc copy
I have mixed feelings about Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth. It was amazing, thrilling, kept me on the edge of my seat, and made me cringe in utter dismay. Unfortunately, it also felt engineered to purpose and lackluster in completion. I am not sure if I finished it because I wanted the ending, or if it was due to just morbidity. I would definitely suggest this to others, but would be careful as to who would receive the recommendation.
Baby Teeth tells the stories of Suzette (mother) and Hanna (daughter) in alternating chapters. Hanna is seven years old and highly intelligent, but when she tries to speak her words just refuse to emerge. Suzette is perpetually ill with intestinal troubles and terribly afraid of recurring health issues/ pleasing her seemingly volatile husband. Hanna perceives her mothers constant pain and irritation as a lack of love for her, a dismissal of daughter and a preoccupation with self. Seven year old Hanna tortures her mother through various acts- the latest being a pretend supernatural possession by a dead French witch she found on the internet.
So was it morbidity or attachment to the plot that kept me through the end? I don’t know yet.
The chapters from Hanna’s perspective were difficult to read. She was vengeful and hateful, but her fear, sadness, and anger were at odds with the methodic sociopathy of her internal monologue. It felt as if she were written from a far extreme to shock readers instead of leaving some plot to the shadows. For example, knowing she was faking demon possession was a shame. There could have been more disguise and less spotlighting.
Similarly, the characterization of Suzette was left wanting. She is so concerned that she will be gaslighted that she never takes any action as her daughter unravels. Hanna just continues to react to the further detachment and limited reaction by ramping up the deviousness. Suzette’s self esteem is so low that she walks on eggshells rather than busts heads.
In the end, the plot culminated in a plateau, then valley that was satisfying but lackluster. I enjoyed it but also wished I had read something else..