Seven-year-old Hanna has never spoken a word.
She is a sweet but silent angel in the eyes of her adoring father, but with Mummy, things are different. Suzette loves her daughter but difficulties with babysitters and teachers over the years have put a strain on their relationship and her sanity.
Then Hanna speaks for the first time, to Suzette alone, and what she says is chilling.
Suzette wants to write it off as a scary joke, but she’s becoming increasingly frightened by Hanna’s little games. Could she be in danger from her own child? And when it’s her word against her daughter’s, can she make her husband believe her?
Bad Apple is a blazing debut novel about a perfect-looking family – where sweetness can be deceptive.
*I would like to thank the publisher, Random House UK, Transworld Publishers (Bantam Press), and NetGalley, for the copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.
Bad Apple is the UK title of the chilling debut from Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth. I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz from this book and I was so excited when I was approved of this title. The blurb alone is creepy and it is definitely something unique. The story revolves around the seemingly ideal Jensen family. What would you do if your own daughter turns out to be a manipulative, evil little girl? Such is the case for Suzette. She has been struggling at her own home. Still recovering from a surgery from her long-time battle with Crohn’s disease and its effects, she was left to tend to the house and to their seven-year-old daughter Hanna, who up until her age still doesn’t speak a word. Not that they didn’t try to find out what’s wrong, Hanna just doesn’t want to talk. Though worried, Suzette’s main concern, for now, is how her daughter treats her differently than with her dad. And as days go by, she gets frightened by her own daughter. While Hanna, she loves her daddy a little too much. She hates her mother and she will do everything to make her go away and have her daddy for herself. Can Suzette convince Alex that their daughter is not the sweet little angel that she projects to be?
Now, this is one unsettling read. The plot is very intriguing and I immediately wonder how the author will spin the story. Will there be a surprising twist, a secret, some other element? I was waiting for something more to happen but unfortunately, there’s none. Everything centers around Suzette’s frustrations to connect with her daughter and Hanna’s plot to get rid of mommy. The back and forth narration between mother and daughter gives readers a chance to get into the minds of two distinct characters and fully understand their sentiments. I can sympathize with Suzette on most, but I can do with less talk about her Crohn’s disease no matter how informative it is. Though I wonder what she could’ve done for her daughter to hate her so much. When Hanna revealed it, I was quite disappointed. I was expecting a little more intense and also, can she really remember that clearly at two years old? I also think Suzette’s efforts to connect with her child is not enough and I get that she had her own mommy issues when she was young but she could at least try a little harder. Hanna, on the other hand, is scary and I can’t help but wonder, is it realistic for a seven-year-old to be that evil? But then it hits me that it’s not the first time I read something about people who’s been outrageously wicked since they were young. I just wasn’t overly affected by it since most of them were part of the story as an adult. So, taking that into consideration, I guess Hanna’s actions are plausible. Which makes it even more disturbing. There are moments that I question Hanna’s flow of thoughts and actions as she seems so much older than the seven-year-old that she is. As for Alex, he seems delusional when it comes to Hanna which can be pretty annoying. Surprisingly, despite some issues I had, I found myself deeply absorbed by the family’s story. Though, the ending is not as satisfying as I hoped.
I realized that this type of book won’t be for anyone’s taste. Some will love it and some won’t. I am somehow in the middle but I do appreciate Stage’s effort to offer something different. No matter how disturbing it is, which I believe is exactly what the author is trying to accomplish. Bad Apple is disconcerting but it is certainly something that will stay with me for a while. Creepy theme but solid debut, nonetheless.