Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Song Pairing: “Ugly Laugh” by The Original Crooks and Nannies Listen Here / 2019 HELLO YELLOW REVIEWS PLAYLIST (Spotify)Listen Here / 2019 HELLO YELLOW REVIEWS Playlist (Apple)

This overhyped thriller got a lot of early love on the review websites I troll. I heard many *gasps* and the words “graphic”, “shock-value”, and “terrifying” were batted around like they meant something. I was so pumped to get my hands on a copy at the library. I knew I was horribly late to the party–everyone who was anyone had already thrown in their two cents about this motherhood horror story, so what would I have to add? Like every other adult on the internet, it didn’t matter–I had to say my piece before the book disappeared into obscurity.

Maybe Baby Teeth is graphic, shocking and terrifying to people who don’t read horror on a daily basis. If this was a departure for you from another genre, this could be the ultimate in terror. Also, if you have a kid you just don’t quite trust (you know that little shady so-and-so is thinking up awful ways to murder you in their head) this could be a scary novel for you.

Otherwise, it was mostly about an insecure mother who tries her best and a demonic little child who has no reason to be demonic, but is.

Suzette, in spite of her Crohn’s disease, lives a very charmed life. Her husband Alex is a sweet, caring and completely oblivious Swedish architect. Aren’t they always, though? An architect, I mean. I imagine a Skarsgård will play this role when this book inevitably gets a movie deal and I’m not mad about it.

Hanna is their super unhinged little girl who doesn’t talk. She can speak, she’s fully capable, but she holds back on her vocal development in order to mess with her parents? Stay a baby forever? Who knows. She’s home-schooled because no daycare or school facility will put up with her violent outbursts. Suzette keeps trying to convince her husband that Hanna has issues, but he just won’t accept it–his precious little girl? No way.

The novel is split between Hanna and Suzette’s perspectives. I whipped through Suzette’s chapters quickly so I could get to Hanna’s. The little girl’s psychotic perspective, very Electra-complex (kill mommy, have daddy all to myself) was interesting until I realized that we weren’t ever going to get the “why” behind Hanna’s possession. I expected some breakthrough, diagnosis, or evil spirit. All we get is that Hanna’s just kind of messed up.

I know this novel’s overarching theme is that motherhood is intense right now. The pressure to be the perfect, all-natural, organic, Insta-uploadable parent is as horrifying as a killer child. Suzette loses herself in her motherhood, it swallows her up. All of her desperate attempts to make her life in some way her own are thwarted by societal expectation and the demands of her child. She finds herself guiltily wondering if motherhood is even something she wanted to begin with, or just something that happened to her. Conundrum.

But the message doesn’t compensate for how stale the action gets. I felt so unfulfilled by the ending of this novel, it was a chore to finish. Literally flip to any chapter you’ll get the same formula: Hanna does something violent, Suzette reacts, her husband gaslights. Over and over, ad nauseum.

I’d skip this one, unless you’re dipping your toes into the current craze of killer children. The new Pet Semetary movie is going to be dope, but wake me up when they remake The Children of the Corn.

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