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review 2018-09-28 17:40
Halloween Bingo: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
Baby Teeth - Zoje Stage

What would you do if you wanted nothing more out of life than to be a good, loving mom – everything your own mother wasn’t - and then you give birth to a beloved baby who grows into a monster that wants you dead?

“Make mommy go away and never come back.”

This is the horrible dilemma facing Suzette, a woman already with a lot of horror on her plate. She’s overcome a childhood of neglect and emotional abuse and now lives with Crohn's disease and the chronic and debilitating side effects that sap her energy, along with the fear that one surgery too many will leave her with a colostomy bag. She’s doing her best to raise Hanna, who remains purposely mute at the age of seven, with love but it’s difficult to love a child who despises you and undercuts you whenever the opportunity arises. Suzette’s husband is completely unaware of Hanna’s evil streak because Hanna is a master manipulator who has him wrapped around her little finger. And that’s just how Hanna likes it. Hanna loves her dad so much she wants to marry him and mommy is in the way . . . Yes, we are diving deep into weird V.C. Andrews territory here and it’s amazing!

I know this is going to make me sound strange but I have to say it, I LOVED this little monster and was one million percent thankful that she wasn’t mine because I have zero patience for that and might’ve had to run away forever. Hanna doesn’t speak aloud (in English, anyway) but all of her loathsome and strange thoughts are shared with us and she is one heck of a twisted, creepy kid who knows how to work the adults that surround her. Her character fascinated me. Her thoughts were so terrible and so deliciously evil that I didn’t want to turn away. Her mother was interesting as well with her tortured and conflicted thoughts toward her child. Dad was a bit of a pushover but I guess he had to be in order for this story to work.

“I promise I’ll be good.”

Sadly the end is bit disappointing. Everything was leading me to believe a big, awful thing was going to happen but instead the book ended with a rather lame little fizzle. Please tell me there is going to be another book and that all of the horrible, terrible things I imagined will actually happen in it because I will hit that buy button the moment it is released!

 

 

This one is going into the Spellbound Category (which only makes sense if you've read the book)

 

Bingo Calls:

Classic Horror 9.1

Cryptozoologist 9.3

Cozy Mystery 9.5

New Release 9.7

Southern Gothic 9.9

Terrifying Women 9.11

A Grimm Tale 9.13

Modern Masters of Horror 9.15

Creepy Carnivals 9.17

Relics & Curiosities 9.20 

Murder Most Foul 9.23

Amature Sleuth 9.25

Suspense 9.28

 

I've Read These (none called):

Murder Most Foul: BIG LITTLE LIES 
Slasher Stories: THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY
Doomsday: PATIENT ZERO
Supernatural: IN THE MOUTH OF THE DARK

Spellbound: BABY TEETH

 

Read & Called!

Terrifying Women: THE GRIP OF IT

 

 

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review 2018-09-17 17:46
Not For Everyone
Baby Teeth - Zoje Stage

Zoje Stage’s debut novel, Baby Teeth, has received very polarized reviews from both readers and critics.  The novel tells the story of a young family struggling to parent a child who seems to be extremely disturbed, if not downright evil.  As the book opens, 9-year-old Hanna is receiving an MRI, a last-ditch attempt by her parents to see if her mutism has a physiological basis.  The news is received with both relief and dismay by her mother, Suzette, who was hoping that her daughter would be able to receive a clear diagnosis and mode of treatment. When it appears that Hanna’s complete lack of verbal or written communication is selective, it is up to Suzette to examine her own contribution to her child’s condition.  The chapters alternate between the perspectives of Suzette and Hanna, and the reader is privy to the fact that Hanna harbors some violent designs against her mother. Suzette is desperate to provide her daughter with everything she was deprived of as a child and remains obsessed with appearances, even as her fears and resentments grow. As Hanna’s attacks on Suzette escalate, Suzette attempts to convince her husband that something is seriously wrong with the girl.  She even starts to retaliate against Hanna, increasingly treating her like an adult nemesis. Alex (the stereotypical clueless father) is reluctant to believe that Hanna is anything but the sweet little girl that he has witnessed. As he coddles and spoils her, her mother sneers and taunts her.  Hanna begins to plot a way to “remove” Suzette from their family so she can be alone with Alex.  Since the book has a small cast of characters, Stage creates a claustrophobic feeling that adds to the foreboding tone. Is Hanna’s behavior a result of a congenital psychological disorder, or caused by her parent’s failed efforts at raising her?  Do we erroneously assume that love is deserved unconditionally between parents and children and vice versa? There really is no sympathetic character for the reader to side with in the book, and the result can be discomforting. Much of the controversy about Baby Teeth involves the perceived sexualization of a child, presented in an excessive and overt manner.  Stage was obviously very inspired by the Freudian concept of the Oedipal Complex when composing this novel. Those readers put off by the descriptions of this element should know that Hanna’s drive is presented as more of a bid for her father’s absolute attention rather than a literal desire for consummation.  This book is not for everyone, and most readers will know pretty quickly if Baby Teeth is a selection they can tolerate or would choose to add to their DNF pile.

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review 2018-08-18 17:18
Baby Teeth - Zoje Stage

A “mute” 7 year old and the first time she speaks is to the mother she hates. An interesting idea and genuinely creepy in parts. Is this a horror or domestic drama? Hard to say as it is often both. Not an easy read at all and often disturbing especially some of the scenarios and quite often violent. Hanna seems much older than 7 with her reasoning and what she gets up to. Alex is quite happy going off to work whilst his wife Suzette struggles with their daughter every day. I liked this book, I think, but certainly not all of it!

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review 2018-08-12 14:35
Where does evil reside?
Baby Teeth - Zoje Stage

Baby Teeth, Zoje Stage, author; Gabra Zackman, narrator
This is an incredibly creative psychodrama interpreted and read well by the narrator who expresses the thoughts and ideas of Suzette and Hanna very authentically so that their true personalities come through.
Although it has been described in some quarters as a book about relationships between mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters, and the competitive relationship of those parents with their children, and also about parenting skills, for me it was about the inability of our society to recognize mental illness and the possibility that it can reside in very young children. We want to think of our children as innocent canvases that we lay paint on in order to create either geniuses or monsters or something in between. Actually, the evil may not lie with the parents’ capabilities, but more likely within the DNA of the child who may be born with certain innate tendencies.
Although this book has sometimes been compared to a combination of books, like Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, and We Have to Talk about Kevin, by Lionel Shriver, I am of a generation that remembers another book, as well. For me, it was more likely a twin to The Bad Seed, written by William March and published in 1982. Eventually, it became a movie, as well.
Suzette has Crohn’s disease. She has had a difficult childhood and a dysfunctional home life. When she meets and falls in love with Alex, it fulfills her wildest dreams of happiness, but then, they have a child.
Alex is a patient and loving parent. Although he is presented with many assessments concerning the aberrational behavior of his child, he ignores the signs of abnormality, even though his wife and school officials have witnessed them. He is determined to explain all of the behavioral issues away and ascribe them to the normal way exceptionally bright children mature. He believes Hanna will outgrow all of her inabilities to socialize properly and even learn to speak someday.
Hanna is on some dysfunctional spectrum, but it is difficult to determine which one. She is mute. She communicates with various behavior patterns like pointing or repetitively banging her hands or making guttural noises at high pitch when throwing a tantrum. She even barks like a dog, snarling and making grotesque faces when she wants to intentionally frighten someone. Her behavior is abnormal. This child, Hanna, would be a true trial for any parent, but for parents in denial because of their own emotional deficiencies, dealing with a dysfunctional child can become impossible.
Suzette’s mother neglected her. She learned no parenting skills. Because of this, she was insecure in her own skill as a parent. Also, she suffered with a disease that caused her distress and embarrassment. She knows what it is like to suffer alone. She knows what it is like when real issues are unattended to and ignored by the one you love. She worried that she, too, would be a bad parent, like her mother, unable to care for her child properly or resolve issues when mishaps occurred; she often blamed herself, believing that it was her ignorance of child raising skills that was the cause of Hanna’s problems. She feared blame. No matter how dreadful or how common sense should have pointed to another catalyst for the behavior problems, she questioned herself.
Hanna adored her father too much and competed for his love. Her need for her father’s attention turned her against Suzette. She viewed her mother as her rival. When her anger and frustration become too much for her to handle, she created an imaginary friend. This friend took on the personality of a dead witch. Because Hanna was unusually gifted intellectually, although developmentally arrested emotionally, her behavior grew worse and her actions became dangerous as she began devising diabolical plans to eliminate her mother from her father’s life so that she could become the center of his attention. Although she often blamed the imaginary friend, she too was an active accomplice. She never showed her demonic behavior to her father, which helped to keep him in the dark, questioning those who condemned her behavior.
Hanna is a scary child. Suzette is emotionally dysfunctional. Alex is in denial. This combination of personalities created a monster that they refused to recognize, at first, and then, when they finally did, they had to deal with enormous consequences.
The book raises many questions. Are there evil children? Are they created or born? Can they be helped? Are parents responsible for the inappropriate behavior of their children, even when it is bizarre? Do children learn by example? Can children feel true jealousy? Are some parents jealous of their children? Do children have a positive or negative affect on a marriage? Does life have to change after the birth of a child? Can a couple maintain their privacy and love with a child in the picture? Did living with Crohn’s disease, an illness that is incurable and difficult to control help Suzette understand that Hanna’s mental illness was probably on the same level, incurable and difficult to control? Would she ever truly feel safe if Hanna was released or would she always fear that she was going to plan to hurt her? There is no definitive way to determine if a mental illness has been arrested or cured. Could it recur in the same way her Crohn’s disease might someday return?
This book would definitely make for a good movie, and it feels like the ending set it up for a second book to follow.

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review 2018-07-25 19:05
Baby Teeth - Zoje Stage

This has got to be one of the creepiest books that I have ever read. The idea that a child can think like this and do these things just blew me away. There were several times that I had to just put the book down and get away from it from a few minutes. It seriously affected me mentally.

However, there is no way that I will ever forget this book. It's one that will stay with me for a very long time. While the subject matter is pretty much on the garish side, it was a good read.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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