Baby Teeth By Zoje Stage
Can't Talk...Or Won't
Suzette has paraded her daughter to every specialist she could find. By the age of five, Hanna has been kicked out of several preschools and kindergarten classes for her violent behavior. While the doctors have ruled out medical problems as the reason she won't speak and acts out, her father, Alex still sees a sweet girl and can't believe the findings that there is something wrong with Hanna in Zoje Stage's thriller Baby Teeth.
Hanna has a simple explanation for the reason she attacks classmates and steals from the babysitters- she is a seventeenth century witch that was burned at the stake and now she needs to kill her mother. Settling up a narrative of an unreliable young narrator, we are never clear is Hanna is actually somehow possessed or just a master manipulator that becomes a child psycho.
Alex refuses to see anything wrong when the schools expel Hanna claiming she set the lunch room on fire or deliberately fed another classmate diluted paint saying that it was Kool Aid. If Hanna doesn't talk, how can she do these things?
Alex wants to believe that its all some misunderstanding.
But Suzette knows that Hanna can speak, she chooses her moments that she wants to communicate and Suzette is often the subject of those threats.
Hanna is his little girl. A sweet, smiling, creative young girl that just hasn't gotten the grasp on communication- Alex can't let himself see the danger in Hanna's printing out pictures of dead bodies, or making what appears to be a voodoo doll. When Suzette points out that she is again having issues at school and is recommended to yet another child psychologist, Alex believes that they are overworking Hanna and that is provoking the behavior. But soon even Alex is a believer.
Mommy Stands In The Way
Constantly seeking new ways to terrorize Suzette when they are home alone, Hanna takes to stabbing scissors into pictures of her mother and printing out pictures of dead bodies off the internet to proudly give her mother.
No babysitter will come back to the house after the things Hanna has done to them and the agency won't send anyone else out. Suzette just needs a break.
As much as she loves Alex, she can't see why he overlooks the things that Hanna has done.
Hanna wants Daddy all to herself. One day when she grows up, she will have taken Mommy out of the picture and she and Daddy will be happy forever. It is Mommy that keeps her from being happy. She knows from her mother's crying and frowns on her face when she looks at Hanna, that she hates her.
But that is OK because Hanna's only friend, Marie-Anne, the dead witch has told her what to do to make sure that Mommy never interferes again.
Hanna's only friend, Marie-Anne, was the last witch to burned at the stake in the seventeenth century France. Hanna is desperate to become a witch too and tries to learn spells that can help her hurt people, mainly her mother.
While Hanna won't speak, Marie-Anne is not shy at all about speaking her mind to other, except Alex. She never has anything to say to Alex.
Suzette is the first to hear the words, when Hanna announces one day that she is no longer Hanna but the witch. In the same day, she is sure to make use of her new voice spouting profanity at her mother and telling her that she wishes she would die.
Marie-Anne takes the wheel when Hanna is heading to a new psychologist and persuades her young vessel to growl like a savage dog and not give real answers. The doctor thinks that maybe Hanna has been abused and has invented this new personality as a way to separate herself from the trauma and Suzette thinks back to a terrible event in Hanna's room where she was saying that she enjoyed being lovers with the devil in graphic detail.
Suzette knows that there was no one that could have abused the child as she is home schooled as no district in the area will take her anymore.
She doesn't believe that Marie-Anne is real, but plays into it when Hanna no longer will answer to her own name.
At least Marie-Anne will communicate in words, be they horrible; but it was a step up from Hanna jamming pencils through the eyes of her toys.
With no medical reason for her being non verbalized, a new doctor suggests that maybe Hanna was being abused and that was the reason for the creation of her new personality, Marie-Anne, the dead witch. Whatever the reason for it in the beginning, Suzette just believes that the child is a monster to be dealt with and stops having feelings towards Hanna, becoming cold to the girl. Maybe in there somewhere was her daughter. For now she was this horrid thing that had be challenged.
It took too long for Alex to become a believe, but now his eyes are wide open.
On a Swedish holiday, the family has a bonfire in the backyard and Alex has made a pack with Hanna that on this day they will burn a drawing of Marie-Anne and that will be the last of her stay with the family.
Although Hanna agrees because it is what Daddy wants,Marie-Anne isn't going down without a fight either. Hanna follows to the yard and does what she is instructed by Alex but her rage in her bubbles and comes to the surface as it always does and instinct takes over.
Hanna grabs a burning stick from the bonfire and hurls it into the lap of Suzette and then knocks over the fire pit onto her mother's lap sending cinders everywhere. She feels that her witch powers will grow if she uses them to finally kill her mother.
She had come so close the other night standing over her with scissors when she lopped off her hair.
She had really wanted to end her the night that she wandered the hallway with the claw hammer wanting to take it to Suzette's temple but she had already called Daddy to come home after Hanna had lined all the floors with thumb tacks hoping that her Mommy would bleed to death before she was able to get to her.
Alex finally saw the side of Hanna that everyone else does and flung her violently to get her away from Suzette. The couple ran into the house leaving her in the yard. When Hanna caught up with them she gleefully showed off her own injury, a fractured wrist that would later get Alex questioned in the hospital for abuse.
Though injured, Hanna was winning through use of Marie-Anne.
She didn't know though that Mommy and Daddy had one last trick up their sleeve.
After the attack on Suzette, Hanna was accepted into a one to three year inpatient program at a psychiatric hospital for children. The doctor limited the couples visits to maybe three or four in a year to keep Hanna focused.
Overtime, she did become more verbal on a regular basis and would behave during her phone calls to her parents, but something was still simmering up in the child.
She begged to come home and they refused and hung up the phone on her.
Hanna would not be silenced.
Baby Teeth is brilliant in the way that it is easily written to have a sequel if Hanna is ever released from the hospital, or carry on her bad behavior there. We still aren't sure what is the exact nature of her behavior, be it paranormal or some sort of psychotic break.
Is Marie-Anne really in the drivers seat? If so how had the spirit attached itself to the child?
Is Hanna really as bad as she tries to be?