Review: Baby Teeth
Baby Teeth, Zoje Stage
To Be Published July 17, 2018, St. Martin's Press
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.
Are bad children born or made?
This is the real question that gets pulled apart throughout the story, as we come to understand that Hanna is truly a dangerous child, and that her mother Suzette is not without her own issues.
Parents, mothers in particular, are often held up to the kind of standards that require an intense kind of selflessness, that demands that a mother be a mother first and foremost and care for her child above all else. Which is unfair and unrealistic at the most basic level, but what if you were expected to be selfless for another person who truly wanted you dead and no one seemed to see that but you?
With the story told in alternating chapters between Hanna and Suzette’s points of view, you can empathize with both characters, and see the genuine missteps that Suzette makes with her daughter, while also seeing the deft manipulations Hanna carries out to further isolate her mother. It begins to feel like a story of cat and mouse, which feels all the more uncomfortable with the child as the aggressor.
This is one of those books where I kept asking myself “What would I do if it were me?” What would I do if I were being tortured by my daughter and my husband didn’t believe me? Would I just leave out of an act of self preservation? But we learn that Suzette feels crippled without her husband, Alex, to support her, and encourage her- that he was the catalyst that brought her out of the misery of her life with a chronic illness and complicated adolescence.
I felt such strange gratitude for how Suzette’s last chapter came together and an admittedly delicious tingle of fear at the end of Hanna’s. And if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself googling case studies about children like Hanna once you close the pages of this book.