Book Review: ‘Baby Teeth’ by Zoje Stage
I may be speaking as a childless adult, but children are strange and often do things that have no explanation. And in the novel Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage, those strange mannerisms young children display can be downright terrifying.
Ever since Suzette and the love of her life Alex had their daughter Hannah, the young girl has not spoken a word. Now at seven years old, Hannah may not be verbal but she has found increasingly aggressive ways to behave towards her mother. Naïve Alex writes it off as an imaginative child’s play, but the behavior becomes increasingly more threatening and dangerous. It has gotten to the point where Suzette believes her own daughter is trying to kill her. The young girl has begun vocalizing only to her mother, claiming to be a French woman who was burned at the stake centuries ago for witchcraft. As the violent nature of Hannah’s attacks grow and become more complex, it becomes clear that something has to be done if Suzette does not want to live in fear of her own child.
One thing Stage does which sets this apart from so many other tales of the “evil child” ilk is that in alternating chapters she tells things from the POV of said evil child. Finding the right voice for an intelligent young sociopath can not be easy, yet Zoje Stage does so chillingly well. Because one of the characters is largely mute throughout the story, this gives the reader a chilling and complex look into Hannah’s machinations. In many ways it also humanizes the evil child and to be honest there are moments you may feel your heart break for her. Alternating the perspective between these two characters also displays the readers just how different they are. Zoje Stage shows us that the driving driving factor in Hannah’s desire to kill her mother is so she can have Alex all to herself. This is juxtaposed with the fact that Suzette’s side of the story shows us how much she missed out having a relationship with her own father. Hannah is constantly encouraged to express her artistic capabilities, whereas the burdens of being a fulltime mother has taken that outlet away from Suzette.
Baby Teeth is absolutely chilling, and it is nearly impossible to put down. The novel presents a cat-and-mouth game of source between two characters who are forced into close quarters with each other. This is the kind of story where there can be no happy endings without betraying everything it has set up but rest assured this is one of the best horror novels to come out in recent years.