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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz

Title: Teeth
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Format Acquired: Paperback
Publication Date: January 1, 2013
Publishing House: Simon Pulse
ISBN: 9781442465329
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


Rudy's life is flipped upside down when his family moves to a remote island in a last attempt to save his sick younger brother. With nothing to do but worry, Rudy sinks deeper and deeper into loneliness, and he lies awake at night listening to the screams of the ocean beneath his family's rickety house.

Then he meets Diana, who makes him wonder what he even knows about love, and Teeth, who makes his question what he even knows about anything. Rudy can't remember the last time he felt so connected to someone, but being with Teeth is more than a little bit complicated. He soon learns that Teeth has terrible secrets. Violent secrets. Secrets that will force Rudy to choose between his own happiness and his brother's life.

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


Hannah Moskowitz' Teeth caught me off-guard. It wasn't the profanity, and it wasn't the magic realism-esque theme that Moskowitz has going on. I  actually can't quite put my finger on it, but Teeth is addictive. It's so ridiculously addictive in fact, that I finished in one sitting the only book I brought with me en route to my vacation. 

Sometimes, the real monsters are ourselves. Teeth tells the story of Rudy, whose family relocates to an island to save his younger brother from his illness. As it turns out, the island isn't just an island away from the harsh toxins of the city, but the island actually has magical fish. Magical Enki fish that keeps the sicknesses at bay. Magical Enki fish that people need so much that some have already moored themselves on the island just to survive. The only expectation Rudy has of the island was that it would bore him, not get him entangled with the likes of flirty Teeth, who proves that Enki is not the only thing that's native to the island. But while Rudy needs the fish for his brother, Teeth is bent on protecting them, uncaring that humans are half of his  kinship too.
"It's not just that. I can't just swim away.""Why not?""I'm afraid I'll drown." He looks up and gives the world's smallest smile. He takes a deep breath with those lungs. "I'm afraid I'll drown." - p. 141
"I get lonely! I get lonely, you a------! I hate humans!" 

Teeth is undoubtedly the shining star of the novel. He's putting up a brave front, but you can clearly see how vulnerable he is underneath all that bravado. While I didn't know what to think of him at first, it is all his insecurities and flaws that have endeared him to me. While fish, even Enki fish with magical healing properties, do not feel any sort of human-like attachment to Teeth, he feels that he is responsible for protecting them, and that it is his life's purpose, however banal the task is. Obviously, the thing that's tying him down isn't the fish; it's himself. Teeth wages a personal battle with himself, because he's straddling two different worlds due to his parentage. While he's more than a fish, he's not exactly human either, and it is because of human mistakes and human error that Teeth has been known to spout his "I hate humans!" spiel. Teeth may curse like a sailor in his cups, but like any creature, he craves for warmth and affection, however misbegotten both may be. Rudy, our main protagonist, is the only one who seems to understand where Teeth is coming from, and he's determined to help Teeth, not because he needs the fish badly, but because he wants his friend to be happy. Teeth has an altogether different understanding of the world of humans because of how he is mistreated and used, but Rudy unknowingly changes that.

Inasmuch as I would want to give this book 4 stars, there's just something that's holding me back. As much as profound and captivating Teeth is, I felt that there were parts where I was just lost and confused, which isn't exactly something I am angling for when I'm reading. While I do like some things being all cryptic and unforeseen, I do prefer some vague things to be spelled out so as to clear away any self-drawn conclusions.

Teeth may shock you with its portrayal of human ugliness and brutal violence, but I very much recommend picking it up. 


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