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Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz

Teeth (edition 2013)

by Hannah Moskowitz

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86None139,446 (4.24)1
Authors:Hannah Moskowitz
Info:Simon Pulse (2013), Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library

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Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz

2013 (4) brother (1) brothers (3) cystic fibrosis (2) fairy tales (1) family (2) fantasy (4) favorites (2) fiction (4) fish (6) friendship (2) healing (1) island (3) islands (2) kids (2) loneliness (2) magic (2) maybe (1) mermaids (4) mermen (2) rape (1) read (3) read in 2013 (2) slashy (1) teen (4) to buy (2) to-read (16) YA (4) young adult (4) young adult fiction (2)



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Another chest-puncher. Also another that you just can't stop reading until it's done, and then you go, "Why did I have to read this so fast?" And you turn the book over and over, hoping maybe you missed something, but you know you didn't.

There were times when the dialog felt a little generic to me, but these moments were brief. I loved the pacing, Teeth's manner of speaking, and some of those Rudy internal dialogs were insanely intense--I couldn't look away for a second.

Definitely, a must read. ( )
  AddisonLane | Oct 26, 2013 |
I have been wanting to read this book a long time. I am not sure why except that the synopsis sounded completely intriguing to me. It ended up being a very interesting, introspective, raw and disturbing read.

Rudy is forced to move out to a desolate island with his family. Out at this island there is a type of fish that seems to be helping his young brother (who has cystic fibrosis) get better. While out there he meets a strange fish boy, and finds out that the miracle fish have a steep cost.

This was very well written and very atmospheric. The descriptions are both beautiful and horrible. The writing is a bit raw at times, there is a lot of swearing, and some gruesome imagery. The events that take place are never really described in detail but what the reader is left to assume is happening is very disturbing.

Rudy is a typical troublemaker sort of teen boy before he moves out onto this island. His main pastimes are smoking, drinking, and sleeping around. On the island though he feels like he is in purgatory, there is only one other girl on the island even close to his age and she won’t leave her house. Rudy starts drawing again, but his life mainly revolves around his brother’s health.

All that changes when Rudy meets Teeth. Teeth is a half fish, half boy (merman) of sorts who has a sad story and an even sadder existence. Teeth sees the special fish as his siblings and tries to protect them from the fishermen. When Ruby realizes this he is torn between having to choose between his brother’s recovery and his friendship/attraction to Teeth.

This is an interesting read about magic, loneliness, and what humans will do when they are desperate. Moskowitz assumes that readers are intelligent and doesn't necessarily spell everything out for you. At times this makes the story kind of ambiguous. As a reader you pretty much know what’s going on but you kind of hope you are wrong.

There’s a lot of thought-provoking parts to the story where the question is raised about what is right. For example when is it right to sacrifice something to save something else? Aside from Teeth the magic in the story is very subtle.

The book is well written and engaging. It ties things up in a realistic, if not fully satisfying, way. It’s definitely not an uplifting story either.

Overall I enjoyed it and thought it was an intriguing read. It’s not a comfortable read and none of the characters are really all that likable. However it is an interesting read and explores some interesting issues. There is a lot of swearing and violence, so just beaware of that...probably best for older teens. The story is a bit disturbing and uncomfortable at points. Still it was different from a lot of other things I have read and I liked it. ( )
  krau0098 | Oct 18, 2013 |
Available to read as part of Contemporary YA Appreciation Week on The Book Lantern.

I know many people will be looking at the synopsis then at the title and wondering one of two things: One, “But Ceilidh, that doesn’t sound very realistic”, or Two, “I knew fish-boys were real! Weekly World News was right again! Now we need to get Obama’s real birth certificate!” I understand these concerns, and am concerned for some of you in return, and I hope this review can put your mind at ease.

Like many an eager YA reviewer, I have been inordinately excited about the upcoming release of Hannah Moskowitz’s novel “Teeth” ever since I heard the term “magical gay fish-boy”. In a time where originality seems to be an increasingly rare commodity and the same three cover templates fill the shelves of the young adult section of your local bookshop, to hear that such a barmy, intriguing and down-right unique concept has not only been written but bought by Simon & Schuster is a much needed reprieve from paranormal love and the end of the world. However, Moskowitz has never left her trademark contemporary YA field (one where she excels – “Gone Gone Gone” is one of the best books of 2012 and you can read my review here), and such a high concept idea needs a strong clear vision and the talent to pull it off if it is to even come close to approaching its potential. However, I am proud to declare that not only does Moskowitz pass those expectations, she knocks them right out of the park.

While the book is clearly not in the same contemporary territory as the author’s previous books, it retains a strangely gritty realism throughout and never fully yields to the fantastical premise on offer. Yes, this story does feature a character who is half human and half fish (and not at all glamourised or depicted as beautiful, another breath of fresh air), but it’s really centred on Rudy and his struggles to cope with his family’s situation as well as the difficulties one must go through in order to just grow up and be normal. Similarly to “Gone Gone Gone”, we are treated to an effective and emotional character study that strikes another blow against the dissenters of YA who declare the genre to be shallow and void of any real value. It takes a particularly skilful and gutsy author to go for the tough and grotesque and pull it off with such panache.

Moskowitz’s style is raw, unfussy and packs a punch, convincingly taking on the mantle of a confused teenage boy who often can’t find the right words to describe how he’s feeling. His confusion is tragically contrasted with his knowledge of the inevitable fate that will befall his sick younger brother. Both prone to fits of childishness, with the swears to match, and the decidedly mature awareness of his family’s humanity, Rudy is something of a triumph in terms of character work in YA. The book has its fair share of interesting supporting characters, although none quite match Rudy and the manic, angry and self-deprecating Teeth for memorability. Rudy’s relationship with his family is a particular highlight, capturing the frustrations and fears that accompany being surrounded 24/7 by the possibility of your loved ones dying. Even the miracle of magical fish cannot promise anything long-term, and the shadow of this knowledge looms over Rudy. The phrase that kept cropping up as I was putting together my thoughts for this review was “deceptively simple”, which sounds rather patronising if I’m honest, but Moskowitz has managed to pull off creating layered complexities and subtext without resorting to over-done prose or forced sentimentality. Even when the book veers close to that territory, as it does especially towards the end, Moskowitz is in complete control of these characters.

However, the novel shares a similar problem with “Gone Gone Gone” in that the plotting is less skilfully handled than the wonderful character work. It’s not a novel preoccupied with plot and creating a rollicking adventure for its readers, which I appreciate, but when “Teeth” does change to a race-against-time style story towards its climax, it just doesn’t work as well. The relationship between Rudy and Teeth is so effective and affecting that it feels like a disservice for it to be briefly shelved as the story calls for an exciting final few chapters. Fortunately this does not detract from the raw emotional power of the book, particularly in relation to the central relationship. It shouldn’t work (actually, nothing connected to that high concept blurb should work) and yet it retains a moving, often humorous and starkly unsentimental edge that feels like a blast of cool water to the face to clear away an overload of insta-love and obsessive looks. Rudy’s sexuality is not black and white and Moskowitz, one of the few YA authors practicing what she preaches in terms of diversifying the cast of current YA novels, makes no such demands from her protagonist.

I classify this novel, probably inaccurately, as contemporary because it has far more in common with that genre of fiction than the paranormal shelves packed full of mystical sea creatures. Moskowitz avoids clichés and challenges herself to take the unbeaten track, using her simply explained mythos to explore all too human themes and relationships. I honestly cannot recommend “Teeth” enough. I devoured it in a way that I haven’t done with a YA novel in quite some time. It’s challenging, refreshing, unsentimental, downright weird, heart-breaking and far more relatable than you’d expect. While I do not expect there to be a swarm of copycat magical gay fish-boy novels released in this book’s wake, as amazing as that would be, I hope that this will bring Moskowitz the acclaim she so clearly deserves.

( )
  Ceilidhann | Sep 20, 2013 |
I don’t know when it happened exactly, but Hannah Moskowitz crept up on me, and she did so with such subtleness that I have no memory of it. Up until this point, Hannah Moskowitz’s name—and certainly her work—existed far, far away from me. Her books have amazed other readers, filling them up drunk-silly on wonder and heartache, and I had no clue. I missed out, it seems.

After reading reviews, I conclude that Moskowitz can write brilliant stories that make her fanbase feel sad. Likewise, these readers love to feel sad so long as it is brought on by a brilliant Moskowitz novel. I can get down with that, because now—after caving in to my inner-voice that pushed me to pick up and buy this very book—I get to feel the emotional torment of Teeth. How fantastic it is to feel abused by a book of all things.

I wish we would all just fall apart so I wouldn’t have to listen to the downfall happen, so slowly, so painfully. Clawing at us.

Teeth takes place on a remote and peculiar island where the fish can cure a human of the most terminal illness. Rudy, now alone and increasingly bored, finds himself stuck as an inhabitant, but not because he’s sick. Instead, it’s his younger brother Dylan who is (or was) plagued by cystic fibrosis and requires a healthy, life-sustaining dose of magical fish. Plucked right out of his life, Rudy now feels alone and joined, or rather confined, to the island. He daydreams of the future, of his getaway: college. The island life, Rudy discovers, is mundane—or so he thinks.

Enter Teeth: the ugliest and only fishboy haunting island waters. Half human, Teeth is a fish who can’t breathe underwater, has a mouthful of pointy, pointy teeth, and feels that the island’s fish are his family to protect. Fish, might I add, that Dylan’s life depends on. Often stubborn and irrational, Teeth is the true heart of this novel and perhaps the brattiest character I’ll love. Peeling back layers, Teeth shows how deeply complex and tragic he is, which makes his character such a sad but beautiful creature. Similar to Rudy, Teeth is also alone, but much lonelier still, and it is this mutuality that allows them to develop a loyal friendship.

“I’m not going to be whatevers with someone who can’t swim,” he says.


“Yeah, like friends or whatever.”

For me, the magic of this novel did not come from any fish, but from unpreparedness. Shock can either take a person in the direction of a good or bad experience, certainly, but there is some charm in leaping into the unknown. I did not know what kind of novel this would become for me, or if I would connect to it on an emotional level. I tried to keep my knowledge about Teeth—both the book itself and the character—to a scant minimum when I read reviews. I have found that some books are best read when early judgments and expectations haven’t had time to form.

One aspect of Teeth that did sprout expectations on my behalf is Moskowitz’s style of prose. I read that her writing holds beauty and elegant quality. To an extent, I think this is true, but not in a way I had imagined. I suppose with my taste, “elegant” and “beautiful” easily translates as poetic and lyrical. (To be precise, I had Rainer Maria Rilke in mind—perhaps unfairly, and even then it’s really Edward Snow’s Rilke translations I’m thinking of.) But Hannah Moskowitz does write wonderfully, and yes, even poetic flair is sprinkled in. It was not what I had in mind exactly, but it still managed to drag me by the legs through a distressing journey with my full adoration intact. This is the kind of writing a reader should connect to on an emotional level, because it may or may not work for you.

Still, there is something to be said about Moskowitz’s style. It strikes and penetrates, sentences constructed just right so that words prickle you on a level where you can feel the sting. Trust me: that’s only one of dozen and more stings, and those stings will last. Sentence structure pushed over, I am also witness to notable characterization. I felt—and continue to feel—the lasting effects of empathy I underwent. Did Moskowitz’s make it one of her goals to have me stare forlornly at her book, to have me take it off my shelf just to touch it? Like I’m reassuring myself, Yes, this book exists, and you read it and it tore a chunk your heart out? Because either way, Moskowitz accomplished that much in the very least, and I know that it will be months before I recover.

In many ways, Rudy’s solemn attitude could easily morph into whiny complaints. It could be, and thank goodness it’s not, the angst many of us feel tired of reading about in literature. Frankly, I did enough self-pity lamenting as a teen that I don’t need any more of it. The dark past that makes Teeth into this extremely tragic character could be the backdrop ready to amplify Broody Rudy’s mood into extra-broody, but it’s not. Moskowitz displays her wonderful ability to make her writing feel authentic.

Teeth can split your heart into broken pieces, and for all of the right reasons. It’s about companionship, bravery, and the pain that loss causes. Although tentatively formed, the relationship between Teeth and Rudy has a root more stubborn than Teeth himself, and it’s buried somewhere deep. How deep does it go? Where is the breaking point? I’m not so sure there is a breaking point between these two, but Rudy faces difficult choices when Teeth seeks help in freeing his family: the magical fish. The very same fish, as I said, that Dylan needs to live. And just like that: the clear notion of friendship, and even family, suddenly blurs.

This island does feel like the perfect place for murder.

This review and more can be read at Midnight Coffee Monster.
( )
  the_airtwit | May 19, 2013 |
Hannah Moskowitz has been on my radar for years, but only since I started blogging has she become a high priority to acquire, particularly once I discovered Cuddlebuggery. Kat Kennedy has a shrine in her corner of the internet devoted to Hannah Moskowitz, perhaps only slightly smaller than the shrine to Melina Marchetta. Seeing such passion inspired in a reader, I can't help but be curious. Teeth is, without a doubt, one of the weirdest, most unique books I've ever read, and I can see what all the fuss is about.

Moskowitz's writing in Teeth is not of a style that generally appeals to me, but the writing style perfectly dovetails with the mood of the story and the character of Rudy. Jenni of Alluring Reads described the writing as 'choppy,' when we were discussing this book on Twitter. That descriptor really fits perfectly. The choppy writing mimics the cracking ocean and continuous discomfiture of the setting. The breaking waves, the storms, and the gray sky all reflect Rudy's emotional arc, and further reinforce the dark tone of the novel.

My favorite aspect by far is Moskowitz' use of magical realism. Teeth reads and feels like a contemporary novel, but with the twist of these magical fish, which, when eaten, can cure diseases and prolong life. Rudy's family moved to the island in a last-ditch attempt to save the life of his younger brother, who developed cystic fibrosis as a toddler. Unable to obtain a lung transplant, the parents heard about this island with magic fish and gave up their normal life to move to this tiny, weird place in the middle of the ocean.

Rudy, a sullen, sarcastic teenager, resents the move. He misses his friends and normal life, and, even with the fish, he's not sure how much hope there is for his brother. His life now consists solely of watching his brother for improvement, running barefoot (something he does now, perhaps as an attempt to connect with the world around him?), and homeschooling. Most of the people living on the island are old, extending their lives by the consumption of these fish.

The island becomes much more interesting for Rudy on the day he discovers that he is not, in fact, the only teenager. He meets Diana, a beautiful teenage girl, who will not leave her house, and begins to think about the prospect of getting action again. He also meets, more strangely, a fishboy, as in half-boy/half-fish. A freaking mermaid, as if magic fish that can help his brother's lungs are not weird enough.

Without a doubt, Teeth is my favorite mermaid book thus far. Moskowitz' take does not romanticize. Teeth, though he becomes dear to Rudy, could never be described as anything but ugly, at least to human eyes. He's slimy, has webbed hands and sharp fish's teeth. Worst for poor Teeth, he cannot breathe underwater. He breathes oxygen, effectively trapping him by the shore with the humans he hates so much, since, despite his fish half, he cannot just disappear into the open ocean or he will drown. His origin story, though creepy and disgusting, is perfection, with a sort of Greek mythology flair.

Before I read this, I'd heard much made of the GLBT themes in this book. Those really are not the biggest or most important theme, though. What Teeth really delves into is what it means to be human and whether animal lives are worth less than human ones. Teeth really gets the reader to consider these classic questions through a different lens, and I loved this philosophical focus.

Though I did like the characters and very much enjoy their story, I would have liked a bit more character development. Rudy and Teeth are the only ones that were adequately fleshed out. The portrayal of Diana and her mother particularly disappointed me, as I would have liked to find out more about their motivations and really delve into their characters, like if Rudy had managed to get his hands on those journals, perhaps. His parents and little brother, Dylan, lacked personality too, having little existence outside of Dylan's illness.

Teeth is a dark, creepy story, completely unlike anything else I've ever read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who really wants to look at the world in a new light. This will most definitely not be my last Moskowitz novel. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
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"Rudy's life is flipped upside-down when his family moves to a remote, magical island in a last attempt to save his sick younger brother, Dylan. While Dylan recovers, Rudy sinks deeper and deeper into his loneliness"--

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