My Rating: 3 stars
I’ve had a bit of a hard time figuring out my thoughts on What Big Teeth. I picked it up because I saw it referred to as Addams Family-esque but scarier. After returning home from boarding school, Eleanor Zarrin finds she no longer fits in with her strange and spooky family. But when her grandmother suddenly dies, Eleanor takes on the burden of trying to hold things together as they hang by the barest thread. Szabo definitely delivered on the creepy atmosphere and the weirdness I was looking for. We’ve got werewolves, people who are part sea creature, ghosts, and plenty of terrified townspeople. My favorite character was by far Arthur, a family friend that doesn’t seem to age. Szabo really kept me guessing with this plot thread, and I loved what they did with it!
A common problem with books in the “weird” genre is that they become confusing, and that is the case here. I was confused basically the whole time. At first this was okay and made sense because Eleanor herself is confused. Her memory of home is vague after being away for eight years, and she’s just as surprised and scared by her family’s strangeness as the reader. But Eleanor never really moves out of that confused state, and since she’s the narrator, the reader doesn’t either. I always felt there were things being hidden, which in turn made me feel like I didn’t get the full story. I also could not for the life of me understand some of the characters’ motivations. For example, immediately after her grandma dies, Eleanor declares they must have a funeral and invite the townspeople. But why? It’s clear there’s no love lost between the Zarrins and the townspeople, so why even bother? It’s never particularly explained. There are several things like this that just left me scratching my head.
I also found the pacing a bit off. Grandma Persephone’s death brings big changes in the characters, but there wasn’t enough time beforehand to really get to know them. I wish there had been more time between that and Eleanor’s arrival so I could see some “normal” days with the Zarrins. I wanted to relish in the atmosphere more and see Eleanor try to adjust before she has to take over for her grandmother. Other parts, such as the romantic subplots, felt a little too slow for me. But I will say, the pacing of the ending is perfect. I adored the ending. It seemed to be a homage to a favorite New England horror writer of mine (I won’t say which because of spoilers), and it’s just perfect for this book.
Overall, What Big Teeth is a strange but fun book that’s perfect for the upcoming Halloween season. It has it’s flaws, but I consider it worth the read!