Review: Baby Teeth by Zoja Stage

July 12, 2018
Baby Teeth, Zoja Stage, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: St. Martin's Press on July 17, 2018
Format Read: ARC Edition (304 pages)
Genre: Thriller/ Mystery/ Adult
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Author Request
Baby Teeth
Sweetness can be deceptive.

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette's husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

From blazing new talent Zoje Stage, Baby Teeth is a story about a perfect-looking family, and a darling little girl who wants nothing more than to kill her mother.


Content Warning: Graphic Violent Descriptions, Graphic Bodily Function Descriptions


This book had all the ingredients to be interesting and unique, but I finished reading thoroughly disappointed. Suzette is a stay at home mom who is trying her best to parent while suffering from Crohn's disease. Hanna is a very smart but mute child who is obsessed with harming her mother to gain more of her father's love. The book progresses back and forth between their point of views. Hanna who is around seven manipulates those around her and has a disturbing fascination with violence. While reading her inner thoughts, I felt the author didn't do a good job of realistically writing a young child's thoughts. But Suzette is described well as a stay at home mom, who wants to be a good mother. Mother and daughter slowly collide in a slow burn, as Hanna spirals out of control.
"People took eating and shitting for granted, like the continuous beating of their hearts, the inevitable protection of their skin. They didn't think about their intestines doing everything wrong, fucking up the basic process of digestion."
This book was filled with descriptions and inner thoughts that it could have left out. The result was a not so thrilling book that I kept wanting to put down. I forced myself to keep reading because Hanna's behavior began to escalate, I hoped it leading toward a dazzling ending. But it just didn't pan out well. The author relied too much on shock value to keep the reader engaged. Hanna only acted out against her mother when they were alone. The husband was slow to believe something was wrong with Hanna, but I had a nagging idea that they should have installed cameras to deal with this issue.
"Honesty was not an altogether solid subject in her mind; it was a vapory thing like smoke that was present one minute and began drifting away the next."
I couldn't relate to any of the characters and even found myself disliking Suzette at times. This was a great concept that could have been executed much better. Reading about a disturbed young child is tricky because it's hard to label them as bad. I wanted more to be explained about how psychopathy develops in children and that was glossed over. I did manage to finish the book, and enjoyed the concept. It wasn't all bad but just not for me.

Recommended for readers who
- enjoy domestic thrillers
- can stomach gross descriptions
- are intrigued by a troubled child's point of view


Zoja Stage, InToriLex
Before turning to novels, Zoje Stage had a deep and eclectic background in film and theatre. Highlights include being a 2012 Emerging Storytellers Fellow from the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP.org), and a 2008 Fellow in Screenwriting from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA.org). In 2009 she won the Screenplay Live! Screenwriting Competition, which afforded her the opportunity to direct a staged reading of her winning script, THE MACHINE WHO LOVED, for the High Falls Film Festival (Rochester, NY). Zoje has written-directed-produced numerous zero-budget films, including the documentary short BEST OF LUCK ("an amusing take on the travails of aspiring writers" - The New York Times). Her films have screened at venues such as Anthology Film Archives and Two Boots Pioneer Theater (both in NYC), Film Kitchen (Pittsburgh, PA), and Emerging Filmmakers (Rochester, NY). As a playwright, Zoje is most proud of her play MONSTER, which was produced in Pittsburgh by the Upstairs Theatre ("Ms. Stage now makes her own contribution to holocaust literature with a demanding and intensely felt play... a must-see for those wanting another view of why and how the holocaust happened." - The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). After living in Rochester, NY for many years, she is back in her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA.

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