Initial thoughts: It’s really a rare treat when you come across a book whose characters leap from the page and find their way into your brain and heart at the same time. For me, Rudy and Teeth became so much more than mere characters in my experience reading Hannah Mosokowitz’s “Teeth”. They became personalities whom I wanted to know, whom I laughed thoroughly at their respective quirks and actually cried when they were faced with some immeasurable tragedies. The bond between the boys, to me, was one of the strongest relationships I’ve read in YA this year, let alone for a contemporary paranormal that has elements of magical realism, and I was completely engrossed in this work from beginning to end until the wee hours of the morning.
This was my first read from Hannah Moskowitz’s work and I loved every moment of it.
I’ve said it many times in previous reviews of books that I loved, but I think it bears repeating – a book that can evoke multiple emotions from me and give dimensions to the characters within the story to where they leap from the page and become something in and of themselves usually rank among my favorite stories. Hannah Moskowitz’s “Teeth” did that for me and then some. I wasn’t prepared to grasp what this book was going to throw at me – not just in the strength of the narrative, but also with respect to the novel’s unfolding events. Sure, I understood this was a bit of a modern day fairytale of sorts, and yes, I knew it would tackle some tough subjects, but I’ve
devoured read my ARC copy twice. Both times elicited similar reactions – it had me up until the wee hours of the morning (5 AM-ish) when I knew I needed to get work done the next day AND it made me cry (laughing and sobbing with melancholy). In retrospect, I am so NOT sorry because I enjoyed both read-throughs.
The story centers from the perspective of Rudy, a teen who moves to a town in a last hope effort for a cure for his 5-year old brother Dylan, who has cystic fibrosis. The fish on this “magic island” as Rudy recounts, are said to cure ailments of many kinds, and for a time, eating the fish is actually improving the health of Rudy’s little brother.
But there’s a cost of sorts. Enter Fishboy, a.k.a. Teeth – most charming merboy of a peculiar, f-bomb dropping sort I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. He also uses the term “whatever” for words he can’t define. He’s got sharp teeth, webbed fingers, silver scaly tail, scrawny, and in Rudy’s words “The ugliest thing I have ever seen.”
That told me ahead of time that Teeth would turn out to be a very interesting character.
Teeth has quite a tragic history though, and it won’t take the reader long to realize that Teeth’s not happy with people eating up his fish comrades (Quoted: “But stay the fuck away from my fish.”) nor with what the fishermen do to him just because he’s different and notably weaker. He’s an endearing character, much like Rudy – whose strong narrative exudes pain in spurts with his respective trials. But the two actually have wonderfully rich dialogues that are funny in some measures, and others that are painfully resonant with the conflict that occurs between and around them. I’m in awe that the story flows so well with the overarching relationship and ultimate conflicts that come to be in the novel as it moves forward. Rudy and Teeth are, without a doubt, characters that have the best camaraderie of any in a YA novel I’ve read this year. I wouldn’t say this is a romance read per se, but with respect to their relationship and how intertwined their narrative becomes, it’s very close and certainly romantic. That part of the story I enjoyed the most.
I did have maybe one or two qualms in the overarching read. I probably could’ve gone without the vivid detail of knowing how merpeople are made (I will have nightmares forever…), but it does fit the narrative lore and adds to the story strand – makes it even more tragic considering how Teeth came to be and the stigma he faces with being who he is and the prejudices against him. That broke my heart in the aftermath. The other had to do with Diana’s character, but that was probably more of a minor nitpick than anything else because of the role she plays, and I think her character was shown enough and in detail that you get an idea of her actions/reactions to things, as well as the role she comes to play in the overarching conflict.
I’m not going to spoil it for events, but it’s the kind of story that has a number of endearing moments between the characters, both in Rudy and Teeth’s relationship as well as Rudy’s relationship with his family – which was very well done. Yet at the same time – it’s rather dark (on the thematic side of things). The ending satisfied me even with the nature of it, and I thought it was touching for what the events before it led up to. Overall, this story definitely earns a place on my shelf and I will certainly come back to it to read and look into Moskowitz’s other works.
Overall score: 4.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from Edelweiss, from the publisher Simon Pulse.