My Review | With Teeth

Photo shows the book cover of With Teeth by Kristen Arnett - Photo by Peri McKinnis - Peri Reads -

If she’s being honest, Sammie Lucas is scared of her son. Working from home in the close quarters of their Florida house, she lives with one wary eye peeled on Samson, a sullen, unknowable boy who resists her every attempt to bond with him. Uncertain in her own feelings about motherhood, she tries her best–driving, cleaning, cooking, prodding him to finish projects for school–while growing increasingly resentful of Monika, her confident but absent wife. As Samson grows from feral toddler to surly teenager, Sammie’s life begins to deteriorate into a mess of unruly behavior, and her struggle to create a picture-perfect queer family unravels. When her son’s hostility finally spills over into physical aggression, Sammie must confront her role in the mess–and the possibility that it will never be clean again.

Blending the warmth and wit of Arnett’s breakout hit, Mostly Dead Things, with a candid take on queer family dynamics, With Teeth is a thought-provoking portrait of the delicate fabric of family–and the many ways it can be torn apart.

I had heard so many good reviews of this book and I knew I just had to check it out. The concept when I first heard of it was like “We Need to Talk About Kevin” but if Kevin had two gay moms instead. I’ll say that it was not as intense as We Need to Talk About Kevin so if that scared you no worries. It’s a pretty tame book. Kristen Arnett writes what should be a cute family love story between two moms and raising their son. Instead it’s every parent’s worst nightmare as we see a family slowly falling apart and a son that seems to have no regard for anyone whatsoever. Honestly a decently bleak story, not saying anything depraving happens, it’s just not much happens throughout the story. Other than a mother being emotionally tortured by her son, so if that’s your vibe this story may be for you.

"She and her son could have their secrets too. They could do that for each other, at least. And wasn't that love?"

The story is seen through the POV of Sammie Lucas, an openly gay woman trying to understand the ropes of motherhood with her estranged son, Sampson. We get to see glimpses of the relationship between the two of them as being nothing close to sentimental. Instead the two barre themselves away from each other. On the other hand we see Sammie’s relationship, or lack thereof, with her wife, Monika. A businesswomen whose savvy and quick witted, but disregards Sammie’s feelings about their son as she’s never home to see Sampson at his worst. As he grows older, so does Sammie’s imminent disdain for him. The two never seem to get along and we are given only brief moments of the two having any semblance of a mother/ son relationship but it disappears quickly. I was intrigued with the concept as a whole, how motherhood in a queer relationship is no different than a straight one, how Sammie has to do what she can to not only survive in her own home but survive living with her son. All while getting nothing in return from her wife. I enjoyed the family dynamic as it felt fresh to me. While I don’t want to assume every relationship is perfect I liked Arnett’s take on Sammie and Monika’s and made it slightly more raw. More authentic. Even Sammie’s views on her own son feel real. Showing that just because she’s his mother doesn’t mean she actually loves him to some degree. It’s definitely a scary thought to have. 

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That being said I did have a couple complaints with the book. For starters, I couldn’t tell you where the climax is. I’m not against a book where nothing really happens but there needs to be a purpose to it. And for me I couldn’t find one. For me nothing interesting happens other than Sammie’s life genuinely sucks. There are really no other interesting characters and there’s no real characterization. There are moments that stick out which I did enjoy when it felt like there was too much gray. But the ending fell short to me and it actually confused me more. It didn’t really tie anything together and felt kinda flat. Other than that I liked the unique storyline of the book and the discussions of family dynamics, even within queer relationships and the fears that motherhood can bring. 

"She didn't reach out to touch him now, but she stood there for a few minutes, watching his chest rise and fall beneath the blankets, thinking that all that really separated life from death was a very fine gray line."

Like I said my main complaint with the book was that nothing really happens. Now I understand that it’s not required for there to be a crazy plot but I expected there to be at least something entertaining. Especially with a plot about a weird son like I wanted something wild to happen. It just got a bit repetitive watching Sammie feel sorry for herself, half the time she’s just complaining within each chapter. Not really a likable character. Even Sampson is less annoying than Sammie which is saying something. Plus the ending didn’t tie anything together, it just stopped. I was disappointed with the overall plot but did I find the plot interesting. Yes plus the cover is really pretty and I do really judge a book by its cover. 






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Hey! I’m Peri McKinnis

Peri McKinnis of Peri Reads

I’m a creative, I’m a dreamer, and I’m an Aries. I’ll read any book with enough convincing, I enjoy weird movies, and I’m a caffeine fiend. From the day that I brought my first book catalog home from school I knew that books were going to have a special place in my heart. Now I want to spread that love here, to talk about the books that made us cry, fall in love, and scorn because we couldn’t finish them.