October is here. And along with it comes longer nights, killer foliage and the undeniable onset of spooky season. In keeping with the season, my latest read is a little darker than usual. While I don’t often go for horror, I like to challenge myself on occasion with something slightly more bone chilling. Rose Szabo’s queer gothic novel, What Big Teeth, absolutely fit the bill for something that’s spooky – but not too scary.
This story follows teenager Eleanor Zarrin and her return home after spending years away at boarding school. Upon arriving at her family’s secluded and domineering estate on the edge of town, Eleanor feels like an outsider among her own family. She remembers who they all are but is shocked at their strangeness: her grandfather acts like a wild animal, her ethereal sister has fangs, while her mother lives in a bathtub and her grandmother uses magic to keep everyone in check. While the strangeness of her family is something that Eleanor soon accepts, she finds herself unable to forgive them for mysteriously sending her away all those years ago.
Just as Eleanor begins to settle in, her grandmother tasks her with protecting the family. What would a family that can perform magic and turn themselves into wolves really need protection from? Unsure, Eleanor reaches out to her Parisian Grandmère for advice. Before she knows it, Grandmère has moved in and begins turning the house upside down. Despite Grandmère’s help, one-by-one family members begin to run away or disappear. But before Eleanor can protect her family, she has to figure out what and who she needs to protect them from. She’ll have to look at her own past and her family history to find the answer before the whole family is doomed.
Intricately written, this story moves along at a slower pace but once in a while something grabs you by the ankle and pulls you back in. In many ways, this is a story about dealing with challenging family dynamics – but when the family is so creepy it puts the Addams family to shame and makes for some great spooky-season-approved reading.