Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage
By Sarah Colombo
Suzette is a stay-at-home mom. She wasn’t always, though. Once she worked as an interior designer along with her successful architect husband. Then she had Hanna. Due to difficulties with Hanna, Suzette must home school her. The difficulty is that Hanna doesn’t talk. Well, that’s the difficulty at first. Then the difficulty is that Hanna won’t behave. Every time Suzette and her husband Alex enroll Hanna in school (at first pre-schools, but at the book’s open she is seven and should be in second grade) Hanna gets kicked out. She barks at teachers, scares children, sets things on fire. Alex is sure that the schools are exaggerating Hanna’s behavior, that they just don’t understand her, but Suzette is starting to realize that their daughter really is out of control.
One of the more sinister aspects of the novel is how clever Hanna is at manipulating those around her, especially her father. She never acts out when he is around, so that when Suzette mentions her odd behavior, he has a hard time believing her. Hanna makes elaborate plans to hurt, mentally and physically, Suzette. She is jealous of the relationship between her mother and father and wants her father all to herself.
Baby Teeth is not for the faint of heart. It is a gripping, creepy novel that you won’t want to read alone at night. Stage does an excellent job switching between the point of view of Suzette and the mute Hanna. While her mom and dad don’t know what’s going on in Hanna’s brain, the reader gets the privilege of Hanna’s narration, which adds layers to the confusion and fear Suzette is feeling. Why did Hanna make a collage of her mother next to pictures of dead women? What is Hanna up to in her room alone? What’s she planning when she sneaks into Suzette’s room at night?
Some have compared the novel to Gone Girl, but there is no big twist here, just a slowly unfolding story that is sure to creep you out.