Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

This “technically” well-written novel was pointless, excruciatingly elongated, and suffered from multiple personality disorder. It couldn’t make up its mind whether it wanted to be a horror story, a psychological thriller, or a serious study of interpersonal relationships.

In the end, it turned out to be none of those--it was just another Hallmark Channel Movie of the Week about a dysfunctional family.

The plot is simple enough: a young couple has a daughter who doesn’t speak and is having behavior problems. That’s it. That’s all the book is about. No real resolution, no real reason. Only a billion pages about them dealing with this daughter and the mother changing her mind every other day.

Monday: “Should we take her to a shrink?”

Tuesday: “She was so good today, though.”

Wednesday: “Maybe we should take her to see somebody?”

Thursday: “She smiled today, so she’s okay.”

Friday: “How about we call a psychiatrist?”

Saturday: “Well, maybe tomorrow.”

Sunday: “Should we have her lobotomized, burned at the stake, and the ashes thrown to the wind?

And back to Monday: “She finished her vegetables, so she’s actually normal again!”

The father is painted as an indecisive candy-ass (and I’m a bit tired of that, too) who is in constant denial about his little “lilla gumman” (that’s the kid). The father is a Swede and the book makes a big deal out of it--even going so far as to let us know they pronounce their last name as Yensen although it’s Jensen. The whole “Swedish phrases” thing got a little cloying after a while, too, and there was no reason for it save a little backyard firepit ceremony on Walpurgis Night which could have just as easily been a backyard marshmallow roasting on any other fall evening and saved me from having to figure out what “Farmor and Farfar” or “älskling” meant.

The father’s role was this:

“She stabbed you with a fork? It must have slipped out of her hand.”

“She spit in your cornflakes? Well, it’s flu season, she didn’t mean it.”

“She came at you with a blowtorch and a pair of pliers? She was just trying to help with the grill.”

Hyperbole on my part? Not really--these things happen over and over and over again in the book until it just becomes almost too much to bear.

This novel began as Rosemary’s Baby, switched over to Audrey Rose, made a detour into Sybil, came back to “The Bad Seed,” and then slid into “Dennis the Menace Goes To Area 51” or whatever’s playing on Lifetime this month.

How this novel ever became the #1 New Release in Horror Fiction on Amazon mystifies me. It’s not horror. It could have been--might have been--and should have been.

Zoje Stage is an exceptional writer, but she missed the mark with this one. If she’d continued writing Baby Teeth in the same vein in which she began, left out the padding, and kept up the pace, this could have been a dynamite horror tale.

I didn’t like it; it missed the mark and the ending was an anti-climax that made me feel cheated.