Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth

by Zoje Stage

Hardcover

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Overview

One of Entertainment Weekly's Must-Read Books for July - People Magazine's Book of the Week - One of Bustle's "Fifteen Books With Chilling Protagonists That Will Keep You Guessing" - One of PopSugar's "25 Must-Read Books That Will Make July Fly By!" - One of the "Biggest Thrillers of the Summer"--SheReads - A Barnes and Noble Blog Best Thriller for July! - "New & Noteworthy" --USA Today - "Summer 2018 Must-Read"--Bookish - "One of 11 Crime Novels You Should Read in July"--Crime Reads - "Best Summer Reads for 2018"--Publishers Weekly

"Gripping"--InStyle
"Propulsive."--New York Times Book Review
"A wholly original and terrifically creepy story."--Refinery29
"A twisty, delirious read"--EntertainmentWeekly.com
"A deliciously creepy read."--New York Post

MEET HANNA: Seven-year-old Hanna is a sweet-but-silent angel in the eyes of her adoring father Alex. He's the only person who understands her. But her mother Suzette stands in her way, and she'll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

MEET SUZETTE: Suzette loves her daughter, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. She's also becoming increasingly frightened by Hanna's little games, while her husband Alex remains blind to the failing family dynamics. Soon, Suzette starts to fear that maybe their supposedly innocent baby girl may have a truly sinister agenda.
A battle of wills between mother and daughter reveals the frailty and falsehood of familial bonds in award-winning playwright and filmmaker Zoje Stage's tense novel of psychological suspense, Baby Teeth.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594900337
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 07/17/2018
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 16,874
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Zoje Stage lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Baby Teeth is her first novel.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

HANNA

MAYBE THE MACHINE could see the words she never spoke. Maybe they blazed in her bones. Maybe if the people in the white coats blew up the pictures they'd see her thoughts, mapped like mountains and railroad tracks, across her ghostly skull. Hanna knew nothing was wrong with her. But Mommy wanted them to look. Again.

The room in the hospital's dungeon carried the threat of needles and smelled like lemon candies tinged with poison. When she was little, the machine scared her. But now, seven, she pretended she was an astronaut. The rocket ship spun and beeped and she scanned the coordinates, double-checking her course. Through the round window, tiny Earth dropped from view, then she was in the darkness with the glimmering stars, zooming away. No one would ever catch her. She smiled.

"Stay still, please. Almost finished — you're doing great."

The flight director watched her from his monitor. She hated all the ground control people, with their white coats and lilting voices, their play-dough smiles that flopped into frowns. They were all the same. Liars.

Hanna kept her words to herself because they gave her power. Inside her, they retained their purity. She scrutinized Mommy and other adults, studied them. Their words fell like dead bugs from their mouths. A rare person, like Daddy, spoke in butterflies, whispering colors that made her gasp. Inside, she was a kaleidoscope of racing, popping, bursting exclamations, full of wonder and question marks. Patterns swirled, and within every secret pocket she'd stashed a treasure, some stolen, some found. She had tried, as a little girl, to express what was within her. But it came out like marbles. Nonsense. Babbling. Disappointing even to her own ears. She'd practiced, alone in her room, but the bugs fell from her mouth, frighteningly alive, scampering over her skin and bedclothes. She flicked them away. Watched them escape under her closed door.

Words, ever unreliable, were no one's friend.

But, if she was being honest, there was another reason — a benefit. Her silence was making Mommy crazy. Poor Mommy made it all too clear, over many desperate years, how badly she wanted her to talk. She used to beg.

"Please, baby? Ma-ma? Ma-ma?"

Daddy, on the other hand, never begged or acted put out. His eyes lit up when he held her, like he was witnessing a supernova. He alone really saw her, and so she smiled for him and was rewarded with kisses and tickles.

"Okay, all finished," said the flight director.

The ground control people pushed a button and her head slid out of the giant mechanical tube. The rocket ship crashed back to Earth, where she found herself in a crater of ugliness. The blobby people emerged — one with her hand outstretched offering to take her back to Mommy, like that was some sort of reward.

"You did such a good job!"

What a lie. She hadn't done anything but come back to Earth too soon. It wasn't hard to be still, and not speaking was her natural state. She let the woman take her hand, even though she didn't want to go back to moody Mommy and another suffocating room. She'd rather explore the hospital's endless corridors. She pretended she was walking around in the intestines of a giant dragon. When it exhaled its angry flames, they'd catapult her forward into another world. The one where she belonged, where she could race through a gloomy forest with her trusted sword, screaming the call that would summon the others. Her minions would charge behind her as she led the attack. Slash, crash, grunt, and stab. Her sword would get its taste of blood.

CHAPTER 2

SUZETTE

SHE SMOOTHED DOWN the back of Hanna's hair where it had gotten rumpled during her test.

"See, not so bad. Now we'll see what the doctor says." Her tight smile forced her eye to twitch. She dabbed at the corner of it with her index finger. A terror clawed beneath her skin, making small rips in her equilibrium. Doctors' offices, medical buildings: institutions of torture. They pressed on her like a heavy slab. Hanna sat with her elbow on the chair's armrest, head on her hand, absorbed and expressionless like she became in front of the TV. Suzette glanced at the framed print that held her daughter's interest. Squares of watery color. She tried to guess, by the movement of Hanna's eyes, if she was counting the total number of squares, or collecting them in groups of similar shades. Hanna pretended to be unaware of Suzette beside her, and she read the usual rebuke in Hanna's refusal to look at her. After so many years, she'd lost track of the moments for which she was being punished.

Perhaps Hanna was still angry at her for running out of bananas. She'd slammed her fists on the table, glaring at her naked bowl of cereal. Or maybe Hanna couldn't forgive some perceived slight from the previous night, or week, or month. Hanna didn't know that Suzette had resisted bringing her in for another CT scan — 500 times the radiation of a single X-ray — but relented to Alex's wishes. Her husband's concerns remain rooted in the pragmatic insistence that something might yet be physically impeding her verbal progress. He didn't see what she did, and she could never tell him what was really wrong — that it had all been a mistake: She didn't know how to be a mother; why had that ever seemed like a good idea? So she played along. Of course she'd have Hanna tested again. Of course they needed to know if anything was physiologically awry.

She considered her daughter. They looked so much alike. Her dark, dark hair. The big brown eyes. If only she'd inherited some of Alex's fairness. She had Hanna put on a nice dress, brand-new knee socks, and Mary Janes. Suzette wore a silk shirtdress, loosely belted to show off her figure, and shoes that cost a fortune. It was silly, she knew, for both of them to dress up for a medical appointment, but she feared situations in which her mothering might be judged, and at least no one could say her child looked neglected or ill. And Suzette had so little opportunity otherwise to wear her finer clothes when all she did was stay home with Hanna. She used to dress up for Alex's office parties and loved the way his lustful eyes followed her around as she sipped wine and chatted, enjoying the rare company of other adults. But no babysitter would ever come back, and they finally gave up. Alex, considerately, made the gatherings rarer and shorter, but still. She missed the casual normalcy she once had with Fiona and Sasha and Ngozi. She never asked if Alex talked about her at work, or if they all acted as if she no longer existed.

Nervous about what the doctor would say — how he might criticize her — she patted a jumpy rhythm on Hanna's arm. Hanna pulled it away, lowering her chin as the colorful, blocky print continued to mesmerize her. Suzette held each part of her body too tightly — her crossed legs, her tense shoulders, her hands curled into fists. It made the tender part in her abdomen twist and squeal in protest and she fanned her fingers, trying to make herself relax. It was her first big outing since The Surgery, eight weeks before. They did it laparoscopically this time so the superficial part of the recovery was faster, though she'd asked the doctor to fix her horrible scar while they were there.

The misshapen canyon of a scar had always bothered her, falling in a deep, wonky six-inch diagonal on the right side of her navel. Alex insisted it was part of her beauty, her strength. A marking of survival, of the suffering she'd endured as a teenager. She didn't need any reminders of those lonely and disgusting years, of the enemy within or her own mother's deadly indifference. As it was, that first surgery at seventeen put such a fear in her that she'd put off Dr. Stefanski's recommendation for another resection until her intestines were in danger of perforating. In the beginning, the stricture only caused a bit of pain and she reduced the fiber in her diet. She'd expected her heavy-duty medication — an injectable biological drug — to eliminate the worst of her Crohn's symptoms. And it did. But as the inflammation receded, scar tissue built up around a narrowing in her intestine.

"Don't take too much!" she'd pleaded with the surgeon, as if he was about to rob her, not restore her to health.

Alex had kissed her white-knuckled hand. "It'll be fine, älskling, you'll feel so much better, and be able to eat so much more food."

Yes, reasonable assessments. If it wasn't for her inconsolable fear of losing so much small intestine that she'd lose the inalienable right to shit on a toilet like a normal person. People did it every day — lived with ileostomies and bags attached to their abdomens. But she couldn't. Couldn't. The very thought of it made her start shaking her head until Hanna twitched, glancing at her with a soured frown as if she was already stinking up the room.

Suzette got herself back under control, at least so far as her daughter would notice. But her dark mind played on, resistant to more-comforting distractions in the weeks since her surgery.

What if she got another fistula?

That was the thing that haunted her every day since she agreed to schedule the procedure. The last time, it developed about six weeks after her emergency resection. She'd woken up one morning feeling as if she was sleeping on a brick, but the mass had been in her own belly, a pool of waste that needed to be drained. It had been eight weeks since The Surgery, so maybe the danger had lessened. Alex said his usual "one day at a time" platitudes. Dr. Stefanski said no no, just keep doing your injections, your inflammation markers are low. But in her head the oozing puss and shit waited in the wings, and what if Alex had to play the role her mother played, nursemaid, replacing the soiled packing in a wound that wouldn't heal —

A quick knuckle rap on the exam room door dispelled her thoughts. Sometimes the presence of a doctor only made her trauma worse, but this one was here for Hanna, not her. And she was here as a good mother, a concerned mother, unlike her own. She pressed her palm against her tingling abdomen and made herself smile as the new doctor gusted in, grayer than the last one. His eyebrows needed a trim and Suzette struggled to maintain eye contact with him with his nose hairs on such display.

"Mrs. Jensen." He shook her hand.

He pronounced her name as everyone did, incorrectly. It didn't bother her as much as it did Swedish-born Alex, who, after nineteen years in the United States, still couldn't accept that Americans would never make a J sound like a Y. The doctor sat on the rolling stool and brought Hanna's records up on the computer.

"No changes from the scan she had ... When was it? Two and a half years ago? No abnormalities of the skull, jaw, throat, mouth ... upon examination or on the scan. So that's good, right? Hanna's a healthy girl." He smiled at Hanna's turned-away head.

"So ... There's no ...?" She tried not to sound as disappointed as she felt. "She should be finishing first grade and we can't even send her to school, not if she doesn't speak. We don't feel like she needs a special class — she's smart, I homeschool her and she's very smart. She can read, do math —"

"Mrs. Jensen —"

"But it won't be good for her — it's not good for her, to be so isolated. She doesn't have friends, won't interact with her peers. We've tried to be supportive, encouraging. There has to be something we can do, something to help her ..."

"I know an excellent speech language pathologist, if Hanna is having trouble —"

"We've tried speech pathologists."

"— she can be tested for any number of things. Verbal apraxia, semantic pragmatic language disorder ..." He scrolled through her online chart, looking for something. "Maybe auditory processing disorder, though she presents atypically for that. Has she had any of these tests?"

"We've tested her for everything. Her hearing's fine, no muscle weakness, no cognitive problems. I've lost track of all the tests, but she takes them, seems to think they're fun — but she won't say a word."

"Won't?" The doctor turned to face Suzette.

"Won't. Can't. I don't know. That's ... We're trying to find out."

Suzette squirmed as the doctor flicked his overeducated attention between the two of them. She knew what he was seeing: the daughter, lost in her own head; the mother, a carefully groomed, but wound-up mess.

"You say she can read and write? Can you communicate with her that way?"

"She'll write out answers in her workbooks, she doesn't seem to mind that. We know she understands. But when we've asked her to write what she's thinking or wants — any type of actual communication ... No, she won't speak to us that way." Her interlocked fingers started hurting and she glanced down at them, a little surprised by how forcefully she'd been twisting them. She took hold of her purse strap and started strangling it instead. "She can make noises — so we know, maybe, she could make other sounds. She can grunt. And squeal. Hum little songs."

"If it's a matter of her refusing ... Won't requires a different type of doctor than can't."

Suzette felt her face reddening, as if her hands had moved to her throat, squeezing the life from her. "I — we — don't know what to do. We can't go on like this." She gasped for air.

The doctor wove his fingers together and gave her a sympathetic, if lopsided, smile. "Behavioral difficulties can be just as difficult to manage as physical ones, maybe more so."

She nodded. "I always wonder ... Am I doing something wrong?"

"It causes strain in a family, I understand. Perhaps the next thing to try ... I could recommend a pediatric psychologist. I wouldn't recommend a psychiatrist, not until she has a diagnosis. In this age, they're so quick to write prescriptions, and maybe this is something you can work through."

"Yes, I'd prefer that, thank you."

"I'll send a referral through your insurance company ..." He turned back to the computer.

Suzette worked the kinks out of her purse strap, feeling slightly dizzy with relief. She tucked a piece of Hanna's hair behind her ear.

"I try to avoid toxic things," she said to the doctor's slouched back. "Not that all medication is toxic, but like you said, society's so quick to find a pill for something, never mind the side effects. But if it's not a disability ... An organic solution, that sounds good." She turned to Hanna. "We're going to work this out. Find someone you might talk to."

Hanna took a swat at Suzette's fussing hand and curled her lip in a snarl. Suzette shot her a warning glare, then peeked at the doctor to make sure he hadn't seen.

Hanna bolted to her feet, crossed her arms, and stood by the door.

"In a minute, we're almost finished." Suzette made her voice sound endlessly patient.

Spinning back around on his stool, the doctor chuckled. "I don't blame you one bit, young lady, cooped up at the doctor's on a sunny day." Suzette stood as he did. "The referral will probably take a few days, then you can schedule something directly with Dr. Yamamoto. She's a developmental child psychologist and has a great way with kids, very established. And hopefully Hanna will connect with her. They'll print out all the information when you check out."

"Thank you so much."

"She might even be able to recommend some schools for you."

"Perfect." She looked over at her daughter, not surprised to see the angry scowl on her face. Through bad behavior, Hanna had made herself unwelcome at three preschools and two kindergartens. Suzette had come to believe that their mother-daughter relationship would improve only when they had some distance — when Hanna went off to school. And Suzette wanted their relationship to improve. She was tired of yelling "Hanna, stop!" and maybe she shouldn't yell, but there were endless reasons — small and large — why she'd needed to. Plucking all the leaves off the houseplants. Pulling on every loose thread, no matter what it unraveled. Mixing a cocktail of orange juice and nail polish remover. Throwing balls against the glass wall of their house. Staring at her and refusing to blink or budge. Hurling sharpened pencils like darts across the room. Hanna had creative ways to amuse herself, and most of them were intolerable.

Since the doctor confirmed there was nothing physically wrong, then, for the sake of her own health and sanity, it was time to convince Alex that they needed to find a school for Hanna. Maybe someone else would succeed where she hadn't in disciplining the girl. She couldn't phrase it to him as a desperate need for her own time and space; she couldn't make it all about herself. Hanna behaved quite lovingly in his presence, and often he saw silliness where she saw mischief, and her more-provocative antics he ascribed to intelligence. He remained blind to his own hypocrisy, all the things he explained away as normal while exulting her precocity. So that would be her argument: Gifted Hanna was bored; she needed more stimulation than what she was getting at home.

One way or another, she wouldn't let Hanna continue to derail her life.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Baby Teeth"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Zoje Stage.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Hanna,
Suzette,
Hanna,
Suzette,
Hanna,
Suzette,
Hanna,
Suzette,
Hanna,
Suzette,
About the Author,
Copyright,

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Baby Teeth 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 92 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the most disturbing books I've read lately. Each family member was locked in their own misery. The mother was so wishy washy about her parenting skills, the dad was totally oblivious about everything, and Hannah was pure evil. Loved the book. I couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Debut novel, Baby Teeth, by Zoje Stage is a disturbing study in family dynamics when faced with an unpredictable mental illness. Suzette is a chronically ill mother doing her best to raise her mute, but brilliant, seven year old daughter Hanna. With the face of an angel, no one but Suzette realizes how disturbing Hanna’s behavior can truly become. Not even the schools she’s been expelled from, or even the other children she’s hurt. Especially not Hanna’s clueless father Alex, who explains away every incident Hanna has been responsible for. But as Hanna’s calculated tricks get more treacherous and Suzette’s sanity slips day by day, will Alex finally realize there’s something seriously wrong with Hanna, before it’s too late? What I really liked about this novel is how the author juggles all the emotions of every family member who is struggling in this bad situation. The reader slips in and out of sympathy for everyone involved, even as you fear that Hanna’s behavior will turn deadly before her parents will be able to find a diagnosis and treatment for Hanna. You slip in and out of fear, empathy, and anger at Suzette’s obvious frustration, missteps, and guilt. You long for her to assert herself more where her daughter and husband are concerned and also let go of guilt over a situation she has very little control over. You want to shake the rose colored glasses from Alex’s face, hoping he’ll see the problems sooner. And you long to hug and kiss Hanna until you realize just how profoundly messed up the child really is. The author was able to, despite everything, cause you to sympathize with Hanna’s point of view. I was truly creeped out by the whole tale while at the same time rooting for a happy solution for everyone involved. The writing style of personal third-person points-of-view was very effective and lent a broader view of events than dueling first-person view points, that at times leave me feeling like I might be missing some aspect you can’t get when the story is only being told from one person’s standpoint. While not a fan of stories in this genre, I thought this was masterfully done, keeping the story both scary but very human and relatable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love these kinds of books...fiction, where the child is scary, because that's the creepiest of all. So well written and absolutely enthralling!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think this book brings up these questions: Are all women meant to be a mother? Do people seriously think about the day-to-day routine, work, and attention a child will need before they decide to add a child to their life? Can a person with a chronic illness give themselves the attention they need in addition to what a child needs? Can a woman who did not get the mothering she needed give her child what the child needs? I wonnder how different the child would have been if she had gotten the love and attention she needed? The book held my interest. I have never read a book like this where the mother shares her true feelings. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting; scary.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage is a psychological thriller. This will be the book that everyone is talking about! It is so very disturbing and will definitely creep you out. I read this book in small doses. It's a lot to digest all at once. An evil, master mind in a very tiny package. That is the only way I can describe little Hanna. Hanna wants her Daddy all to herself and she will go above and beyond to make that happen. Suzette, Hanna's mother is the prime target or shall I say victim in the story. Alex, Hanna's father is blind to Hanna's cruel behaviors and tricks. Hanna is unlike any child I have ever met. She is down right evil. This is one majorly dysfunctional family. With this being Zoje Stage's debut book, I can't wait to read the next. There are very few authors that can write a story that can freak me out like this one. This book will stay with you long after you finish it.
suekitty13 More than 1 year ago
This story is so difficult to read that it was almost physically painful. It's well written and clever but the subject matter was borderline unbearable. I was so angry and horrified that I almost stopped reading about half way through. I wasn’t sure I could take any more, or that I wanted to force myself to continue. I did persist until the end and I’m glad that I did because it did get better. It was never a comfortable or optimistic read but it did turn out to be not completely awful. I was totally aghast at the parent’s behavior. How could they just let this continue and escalate to such an absolute insane degree. I understand that people always want to think the best of their children may have a hard time believing the worst about them but it was so blatantly obvious that this kid was seriously mentally ill and yet they continued to either ignore the problem (the father) or minimize the psychotic behavior (the mother.) If I were in this situation I would have nanny cams throughout the house so there would be a record to show to the husband, the police, the doctors and the mental health professionals that were so badly needed . I don’t have children because I don’t really like them (I'm not hateful or anything I just like quiet and am a germaphobe!) and I have to say that Baby Teeth is a great illustration of why kids creep me out. Who knows what terrors they are thinking about and planning? What if your kid is a psychopath in the making? There’s a good reason that so many horror movies feature creepy children. If you need a new horror to add to your nightmares meet Hanna. You won't forget her. Thank you St. Martin's Press for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.
PegGlover More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars Wow, Baby Teeth is one of the darkest, creepiest horror books that I’ve read in a long time. It was a fascinating story, in a shocking-horror-type of way. I couldn’t put the book down, and read it in one sitting. By all outward appearances, Suzette and Alex had it all. They were financially comfortable, had a loving, passionate relationship, and a beautiful daughter. But, appearances can be deceiving. Seven-year-old Hanna was cunning. She knew how to get her way, whether she was at home, in school or just out with Suzette, her mother. Hanna was sweet and loving when she wanted to be. With her mother, however, Hanna was cold, calculating and manipulative. Hanna wanted her father for herself and was determined to do whatever was necessary to make that happen. Suzette loved her daughter and wanted only the best for her. And, even though Hanna’s hostile behavior towards her, hurt, she showered Hanna with love. Suzette made mistakes along the way but sincerely tried to give Hanna a better childhood than she had for herself. Alex was oblivious to Hanna’s manipulations. He couldn’t believe that his sweet daughter was capable of the evil deeds being reported to him. Suzette’s life became a hellish power-struggle with her daughter, even dangerous, whenever her husband was not in sight. Kudos to the author for creating such an unforgettable debut novel. Whether you like the book or not, it’s bound to stir up strong emotions. If you can handle reading about twisted minds, even in a child, then this book might be for you. I rated this book down from 5 stars to 4.5, because Hanna’s behavior to me, seemed too advanced for her age. Thank you, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for my advanced review copy.
AvidReaderREE 12 days ago
I received an advanced copy from the publisher via Netgalley for an honest review. Wow. This was BEYOND eerie from the beginning!! But completely in a good way. Oftentimes with horror movies and novels, especially with creepy kids, you only usually get the other point of view and not the view from the super creepy psychopath kid; this novel you totally do! I love novels that switch points of view like this and going back and forth from the psychopath daughter to the primary victim mother was insane and wonderful! I have to be honest, this was one intelligent little girl who would only act up towards her primary victim when her favorite person, daddy, wasn't around. I have to say, I REALLY disliked the father almost this entire novel, even when he seemed to redeem himself some, I still felt very blah about his character. Just from the beginning this was wonderfully eerie and got me in the mindset to read more creepy novels like this! This was absolutely impressive for a debut novel and I will definitely be picking up whatever this author has to offer next. Although I do have one question, is there going to be a sequel to this creep-tastic novel?! Because I would be good either way with the ending as is or continuing with this psychopath.....
Anonymous 17 days ago
Great read on an unusual topic! Kept me entertained as I am healing from a difficult surgery. Very detailed on the thoughts of the characters and their emotional journeys.
Anonymous 23 days ago
This story caught my attention as soon as I read the synopsis. I felt that the story flowed at a steady pace that was both enjoyable and intriguing. It's been awhile since I read fiction I couldn't put down! I would absolutely read future books from this author. The writers style is already one I feel akin to.
Anonymous 5 months ago
I love a good killer kid story, so when this showed up in a NetGalley email, I was immediately interested. Hanna is a 6-year-old mute (by choice) who is in a psychological tug-of-war with her mother over her father's love. She puts on a good face when her father is around, but basically spends her time mentally and physically torturing her mother. It's a pretty straight up killer kid storyline, but I did like that there was a reason she was so fixated on hurting her mother (besides being your average sociopath). She wanted her dad to herself. It's easy to fall back on the trope of just being "born evil". Although having some sort of severe mental disorder is obviously a part of it, I thought it was more realistic for Hanna to have some sort of twisted 6-year-old reasoning for targeting her mother. The book alternated between Hanna's view and her mother's view so you could see the thought process behind both. Hanna's mother wasn't a saint (she more than once instigated Hanna) but I actually started to not blame her. Especially since Hanna's mother has to deal with her chronic illness as well. As someone who also suffers from an autoimmune disease, I know that it takes a lot to manage. I can only imagine how hard it would be to not only raise a child as well, but one who is hell bent on destroying you. Also, points to the author for obviously knowing her stuff. I have a different autoimmune disease, but treatment is similar, and I thought the author was spot on with her depiction. I really liked the ending. No spoilers, but I've read a lot of horror and it wasn't what I was expecting. It was refreshing and still chilling without resorting to cliches or crazy twists. Overall, I loved it. Sure it was a little over the top at times, but it's horror. It's supposed to be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
excellent+%21
DianeD54 More than 1 year ago
This was creepy and unsettling all in a good way if you like psychological thrillers. It hooks you from the start, which I like and keeps you turning those pages! It is also one of those books that you don't forget easily.
GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
I finished this book last night and am still not sure what rating I should give it. This was not a book that I liked the story, but I couldn't stop reading it. I wanted to find out what was going to happen, so that means it should be rated higher. This is supposed to be a thriller, but I did not find it a thriller, I found it a horrific family drama. This is the story of Hannah and her parents. It is told from the viewpoints of seven year old Hannah and her stay-at-home mother, Suzette. Hannah is a beautiful young girl who refuses to speak. She will growl, grunt and scream, but will not form words. When Dad is home, she is smiley and delightful. When he’s at work, she does her best to make her mom’s life a living hell. Hannah is home schooled because no school will keep her. She snarls and growls at the students and teachers, hurts other children and has even started fires. Suzette has her own problems. She has Crohn's Disease and has symptoms, surgeries and a lot of anxiety and emotional baggage. She is worried that it is her fault that Hannah is the way she is and that guilt is not helping anyone. When Hannah begins to act even more strangely, as well as trying to hurt her mother, something needs to be done. This is not a fun read. It’s hard to imagine a child who hates her mother so much. Children normally love their parents no matter what so this is hard to wrap your head around. The fact that we don't know why Hannah feels the way she does makes it even more powerful. It reminds me a bit of the horror movies I watched when I was younger. I found the book to be well written, but it is a tense and disturbing read. My biggest complaint is the ending. It seems that there might be a sequel to this one based upon the ending and I am not a big fan of being left hanging. If you’re in the mood for a thrilling, yet horrific family drama, then this is the book for you. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book upon request. The rating, ideas and opinions stated are my own.
medwards429 More than 1 year ago
I received an ARC copy from the publisher – St. Martin’s Press before this was released. The story is told (in third person) from two points of view: ** Suzette (mom) ** Hanna (daughter) The only other “major” character in this book is the husband/father Alex. As Alex (dad) and mom (Suzette) sometimes speak Swedish, I would have preferred the author had placed a Swedish/English dictionary in either the beginning or the end of the book. At the center is (7) year old Hanna, a smart (near brilliant) non-verbal child. She also has a “mean side” to her – to everyone, but her father. She despises school, and not only harbors evil thoughts against her mother, but other children as well. Alex ADORES Hanna and doesn’t see her in the same light as Suzette. He sees Suzette’s concerns as complaining rather than actual warning signs there is something wrong. Even after Hanna’s misdeeds towards her mother, he cannot bring himself to accept what Suzette is telling him. Despite seeing a lack of affection between Hanna and her mom, he tends to blame Suzette. I found Alex a bit condescending to Suzette with regard to Hanna’s behavior and half expected him to say that Suzette was making it up. His side of the story would be interesting to explore. Did he know from the beginning that Hanna was bad but was hoping for the best? Or, was he truly that ignorant? Because of a story his daughter likes, Alex brings her a “potato” to make one of the characters, but doesn’t tell Suzette about it. This potato toy plays a crucial role later on in the story, acting as a catalyst for Hanna to act on a fantasy, a near deadly one, towards her mother after a small accident. A decision is made for the family – one that isn’t easy for them. Alex’s guilt comes out. It is in the closing chapters when Suzette and Alex are treated to an interesting surprise, but one that is suspicious. Alex’s tone changes at the end from complete ignorance to almost defeat, failure as a parent. The story lacked an actual explanation for why Hanna was the way she was even at the end. What the writer established fails to provide the necessary justification in why Hanna is so cruel to her mother. Why didn’t someone call the police when Hanna acted out? There were a few incidents, that in my opinion, the police should’ve been called – yet nothing. Didn’t the staff at the Urgent Care think to call the police to “check out the stories” – even if it would be misdirected at Alex? These are areas where the writer could’ve built on, but didn’t. The only parental relationship explored was Suzette and her mother (after her father died). The reader has no way of knowing what Alex’s relationship with his parents was like. The writer, while this is her first outing, missed a few spots in hitting the mark.
ShihTzuMama More than 1 year ago
You might expect there to be a little competition between mother and daughter when it comes to daddy’s attention and affection, but when the daughter is only seven years old, devious as the devil and wants mommy permanently out of the way things become a little unnerving. Daughter Hanna is a real little manipulator, refusing to speak unless she chooses and resorting to making animal sounds to taunt her mother Suzette, a stay at home mom who is suffering from Crohns disease and is slowly losing her grip as she tries to home school her daughter who was expelled from kindergarten. Father Alex is totally oblivious to Hanna’s game and spends an inordinate amount of time with her and not his wife. Told from the perspective of the two female characters, this is a tale where no one is quite “right in the head”. Each has fantasies concerning the potential demise of the other and Hanna’s machinations are a little hard to swallow since they are those of a much older person. Fact of the matter is that Hanna makes Patty McCormick’s BAD SEED Rhoda look almost normal by comparison. This is one of those horror stories that presents a good case for celibacy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good
Michael_Flores1 More than 1 year ago
I read some good reviews for Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage, but ultimately I was a little let down… Maybe my expectations had been made too great. The writing was good, but the characters just seemed a bit implausible, especially the parents (the father) are kind of flat. There was some good suspense, and the ending tied up fine, but a lot of time, I just felt it was dull.
JodyPA More than 1 year ago
Repetitive emotional torment, expressed over and over and over again and ultimately go no where. I was hoping for a "reveal" that never came. This book reminded me to get a library card, instead of risking my money on a college level writing, at best. A humor/horror mix that did not work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating. I couldn't put it down.
RabidThrillerReader More than 1 year ago
Baby Teeth certainly caught me surprise. Not so much the plot or characters, which was a slow but steady plan of attacks from the perspective of a 7-year-old girl Hanna to kill her mother, whom Hanna sees as a threat to her relationship with Daddy. What really hooked me was the prose--particularly Hanna's chapters, where the mind of a child comes alive with creative wordplay and visual prose. It was a delight to watch the words come together in such playful fashion. The locale, Pittsburgh, also was a strong point. A perfect setting, well-crafted too. And the characters--Daddy Alex, Mommy Suzette, and Hanna the child--were wonderfully real. However, and this was a big however... One thing that niggled at me was Hanna's muteness and how not a single institution or school who worked with her ever mentioned sign language as a communication option. In today's day and age, it's commonplace for parents and all schools to have a sign interpreter, so it was a little plot flaw that bugged me, but not enough to take away any stars. Lastly, and I'm trying not to leave a spoiler, but I will say the ending frustrated me, leaving the reader completely suspended without a closing, but done with a typical horror-style open-endedness. We don't get closure, we don't know anything, really. But it's a borderline horror book (aren't all murderous kid books on the horror scale?), so I'll accept it. If you love creepy kids (not in real life, but in fiction, hehe), you'll enjoy Baby Teeth.
SGMomma More than 1 year ago
WOW WOW WOW! Crazy good, original story. A parents worst nightmare come to fruition in this haunting book! The points of view from each character were amazing. I can't even imagine what I would do and that is just one awesome thing about this story. You can't help but think about what you would do if you were in this situation with your child and husband. Perception is everything! Very original, and definitely terrifying in its own crazy way.
jnmegan More than 1 year ago
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.
TheThirtyYearItch More than 1 year ago
Seven-year-old Hanna doesn’t not have much to say. Nothing, actually. Ever. While she seems to otherwise develop normally, she can’t—or won’t—talk. Her parents, Suzette and Alex, subject her to test after test to find out why. But mutism isn’t Hanna’s only problem, not even her biggest. She wants her father all to herself, even if that means getting rid of Suzette. Is there such a thing as evil? Demons? Witches? After spending time with Hanna, those are the questions most will be asking! Baby Teeth is written using alternate point of view of Suzette and Hanna. Suzette--smart, likeable, hardworking, loves Hanna despite her behavioral problems, and works hard to be a good mother—sometimes lets her frustration and get the better of her. Hanna--smart and diabolical--still has the emotional, intellectual, and physical limitations of a seven-year-old, manifested in the sometimes-childlike simplicity of her plotting and beliefs in spells and curses. Her evil plans often fail the way one would expect when made by a seven-year-old, adding a layer of childlike inculpability. Even in the failed plans Hanna’s intent is clear, and Suzette is caught between Hanna’s wrath and her husband, who is reluctant to believe his beautiful daughter is capable of such things.