“I sat with that for a long time. I thought of every person I had met, wondering how many of them had wolves inside them and just had never pulled them out. Or perhaps more horrible: how many of them, in a moment of fear, reached inside themselves for something to save them, and came up empty,” (Szabo 262).
As a young girl Eleanor Zarrin was sent away from her home to attend St. Brigid’s Boarding School. Eleanor doesn’t know why, but after an incident at her boarding school she can think of nowhere else to go but home. But after so many years away she hardly remembers her family at all, her monstrous relatives who prowl the woods as wolves at night, her mother always soaking her polyped half in the tub, the strange Arthur who comes and goes as he pleases, or her grandmother Persephone who sent her away in the first place. Eleanor isn’t seeing things clearly but she’ll have to learn to so she can keep her family safe.
I really wanted to enjoy this book. The cover alone drew me in, if I could hang this cover on my wall I would but alas, I read a library book and would never deface it. This is a classic case of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” and I absolutely hate when clichés are correct.
What Big Teeth isn’t all bad, it actually starts out fairly strong. Szabo does an amazing job creating a truly gothic atmosphere of the Zarrin house and the nearby town of Winterport. The book has an unsettled, creepy, dusty feeling to it which is the best part of it, I’d love to see Szabo continue in the gothic style, but so much of it fell flat. While I adored most of the characters our heroine Eleanor was bland, I found myself eagerly awaiting for Luma, Rhys, Miklos, or even Charlie so briefly mentioned in the prologue to return because Eleanor was so dull. She remembers nothing, and I mean nothing of her life or her family before she was sent away from boarding school, and I understand why Szabo made this choice but it just didn’t work. It was so clear that her family loved her even in their strangeness but Eleanor was blind to it and it just didn’t make sense.
I will also say that Szabo does an excellent job in the way of retellings. What Big Teeth isn’t a direct retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, it’s probably generous of me to call it one at all. But I was so impressed with what Szabo did with both grandmothers in their book, especially with Grandmère, that I have to believe was a nod to the Grimm’s tale and I was just obsessed with the uniqueness of it.
Another thing I liked is that the book is unapologetically queer with most of the Zarrin’s being queer which was nice to see. Some strange homophobia near the end which I suppose made sense but felt off with how accepting every other character was with the queerness of the family.
There was a lot of promise here, with a unique and loveable cast of characters but What Big Teeth just dragged. Great atmosphere with a lot of creativity, I hope Szabo can wow me with their next book.
Publication: January 11th 2022
Publisher: Regal House Publishing
Pages: 394 pages (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Gothic, Mystery, Retelling, Young Adult
My Rating: ⛤⛤.75
Eleanor Zarrin has been estranged from her wild family for years. When she flees boarding school after a horrifying incident, she goes to the only place she thinks is safe: the home she left behind. But when she gets there, she struggles to fit in with her monstrous relatives, who prowl the woods around the family estate and read fortunes in the guts of birds.
Eleanor finds herself desperately trying to hold the family together — in order to save them all, Eleanor must learn to embrace her family of monsters and tame the darkness inside her.