I picked up Szabo’s debut, What BIG TEETH, during my last YA Horror binge. It’s a story about an everyday girl forced to go home to her creature-filled family. A story about generational trauma, and what makes a monster.
I’ve never been the type that picks a book because of the title and cover. I’m more of a concept person. But when I saw the the faux rip revealing wolfish fangs above the words What BIG TEETH, I have to admit, I fell prey to the marketing. It was the first Horror book I read in my line up. I was intrigued.
Unfortunately, my intrigue waned with the rather slow beginning. Don’t get me wrong, What BIG TEETH isn’t the slowest book I’ve ever read, and it wasn’t slow enough for me to put down. Parts of the writing hooked me deep enough to stay. The monsters were incredible, dare I say, unique.
It’s a serious challenge to come up with something unique in this over-saturated, over-stimulating YA speculative market, but Rose Szabo pulled it off. What Big Teeth gets points for creativity. I haven’t read a book with such unique creatures in a very, very long time.
In fact, it was almost too creative. As the story unraveled, things went from imaginative to weird. I’ve heard What Big Teeth described as overtly odd, and it’s true. The first half of the book rambles through the plot. It leans on the creatures and intrigue of an old mansion and mysterious, handsome archetype a little more than necessary. It’s not scary. It’s strange. Many readers might be disappointed by that.
I appreciated the oddities. The book is about a family of outcasts, creatures the world rejects because they’re weird themselves. It’s an interesting peek into the interior of what something other might live like, and how living on the outskirts might effect relationships, family, and personal value for generations to come. That is the theme of What Big Teeth, someone different finding their place in a world that refuses them, and how to outlive mistakes of the past.
For some, this book might not resonate. I can understand that. If you’re looking for an old fashioned fright, this wouldn’t be my first recommendation, or even in my top ten. While is sits comfortably in horror, I suspect many readers might be disappointed with the lack of classic horror moments.
But if you’re looking for a horror story that turns the concept of a monster on it’s head and explores what it might be like to exist in a world not designed for you, read this.
What Big Teeth isn’t typical, and I think that’s exactly what Szabo intended. And thought it’s not my favorite book, I’m glad I read it, and will be recommending it to many of my students, specifically the ones who like weird, twisted, and strange
Those students are always my favorites. I can’t to share this with them.
Keep reading everyone,