General Fiction (Adult), Thriller

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Baby TeethBaby Teeth by Zoje Stage

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just published in July!

Let me start this review with some stats:

  • 1 of 7 U.S. children aged 2 to 8 years is diagnosed with a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder
  • There was a 24% increase in inpatient mental health and substance abuse admissions among children during 2007 – 2010
  • An estimated $247 billion is spent annually on pediatric mental health disorders

Was Baby Teeth the most shocking, twisty, turny, mind boggling thriller I’ve ever read? No. But did it give a realistic glimpse into the lives of pediatric mental and behavioral health patients and their family struggles/dynamics? Absolutely.

Hanna is a seven-year-old mute girl who struggles with behavioral issues. She has been kicked out of numerous schools for her behavior towards other students and faculty, and is home schooled by her mother, Suzette. However, as Hanna grows older, Suzette is having a harder time handling her daughter’s bizarre behavior. Hanna’s frustrations manifest themselves in the form of an alter ego (Marie-Anne Dufosset, a witch from the Salem Witch Trial era), and despite being mute as Hanna, when she is Marie-Anne she speaks (and her words are troubling and demonic). She begins to formulate plans to hurt her mother, while trying to protect and please her father. Can her parents save her before it is too late?

It was extremely interesting how Hanna pitted both her parents against each other, and to see the progression of the family dynamics as it became more apparent that there was a problem with Hanna’s mental well-being. I imagine it would be easy to be in denial about the shortcomings of your child, and Zoje Stage did a great job portraying the internal struggle that parents of children with psychiatric illness deal with on a daily basis. Also told from the perspective of Hanna, it was fascinating to see her thought process develop throughout the book, and understand why her behavior was so horrendous. While at times I tended to think she was creepy or evil, once I took a step back, I realized that there are real children that deal with mental illness, and began to sympathize with her more.

I work at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, and unfortunately, pediatric behavioral health is an ever increasing issue within children’s hospitals across the nation. Children with psychiatric illness frequently present to pediatric emergency departments, and often the services that are provided in an acute care hospital are not sufficient to meet their psychiatric needs. Therefore, more and more children’s hospitals are building pediatric behavioral health inpatient units within their walls to provide a safe space to meed the demands of psychiatric patients. For example, Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio has an inpatient psychiatric facility and is currently building an additional Behavioral Health Pavilion to meet increasing demand. See their vision here: Needless to say, this population is real and they have real needs. Zoje Stage did an amazing job providing a glimpse into the life of a family affected by pediatric psychiatric illness.

If you’re looking for a true “thriller” that has tons of twists and turns and surprises around every corner, this is definitely not that type of book. But, if you’re looking for a quick read and something to make you think and give you further understanding of a population to which you may not have been previously exposed, this book would be a great addition to you TBR.

-I was gifted this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Zoje Stage and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to review.-

View all my reviews

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