Review: What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

Book cover for What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo. Illustration of a white teenage girl with white-blond hair looking at the camera. Half of her mouth has been scratched off like in a painting, showing fanged teeth underneath.

Title: What Big Teeth
Author: Rose Szabo
Genre: YA Fantasy | Horror
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: February 2, 2021
Format / source: eBook / ARC from publisher
Purchase: Macmillan
Content warnings: death, animal death, blood, gore, confinement
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I’ve finally got a review for you! This one was a bit of a miss for me, especially after my high anticipation for it, but it’s still an interesting Addams Family-like story of a family of murderous creatures. Thanks to Raincoast Books for an e-ARC!

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.

Exquisitely terrifying, beautiful, and strange, this fierce gothic fantasy will sink its teeth into you and never let go.

I was so excited and intrigued by this premise, and that cover! But it didn’t feel like it was fully fulfilled, though I can’t quite put my finger on why.

You can definitely get the Addams Family vibe right away. Eleanor returns home to her family and the author makes no attempt to hide what they are — we’re immediately introduced to the werewolves as they come in from a romp through the woods, changing shape as they walk. This is a very odd family, and though they don’t have the humorous and loving personalities of the Addams, their standoffish, dangerous appearance set this up perfectly as an intense thriller.

Much of the mysterious aspect of the book comes from Eleanor’s poor memory of her family and life before she left for boarding school, including why she was sent away. The reader gets to try to put the pieces together as Eleanor does the same, though I found the pacing of these reveals a bit tedious. Eleanor is continually presented with hints of her story throughout the book but she ignores them or doesn’t press people further to ask questions.

And I think this slow reveal impacted my enjoyment of the climax and resolution of the book. The story isn’t at all rushed but because we progress so slowly, all the reveals felt crammed in at the end. There are many creatures besides werewolves that were introduced to throughout but we really only get glimpses of their abilities and powers at the end and I would’ve preferred to get to know them better. This crammed feeling may also be that there was just too much for one story and it didn’t come together well to form a coherent narrative. I found Hollis’ review @ A Take From Two Cities echoed a lot of what I felt.

I still enjoyed the book but the ending wasn’t satisfactory. I’m still interested in looking into this author’s future books, as this was their debut, but unfortunately What Big Teeth wasn’t a great read for me. But as you can find on the author’s website below, some big publications gave it rave reviews so perhaps it’d be a different experience for you!

About the Author: Rose Szabo is a nonbinary writer from Richmond, VA, where they live with an assortment of people and animals and teach writing at VCU. They have an MA in English from the University of Maine and an MFA in creative writing from VCU. Their work has been published in See the Elephant and Quaint magazines. What Big Teeth is their first novel.

Author links: Website | Twitter | Instagram

What fantasy creature do you most enjoy reading about?
What are your favourite horror books?

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Cover image, blurb, and author bio from Goodreads.

4 thoughts on “Review: What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo

  1. I have seen quite a few people who felt disappointed by this one or just found it to be a mediocre read so I am sorry the same thing happened to you and the ending was so disappointing. That’s always the worst 😦

    Liked by 2 people

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