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Teethby Hannah Moskowitz
Be careful what you believe in.
Rudy’s life is flipped upside-down when his family moves to a remote island in a last attempt to save his sick younger brother. With nothing to do but worry, Rudy sinks deeper and deeper into loneliness and lies awake at/b>/i>/i>
A gritty, romantic modern fairy tale from the author of Break and Gone, Gone, Gone.
Be careful what you believe in.
Rudy’s life is flipped upside-down when his family moves to a remote island in a last attempt to save his sick younger brother. With nothing to do but worry, Rudy sinks deeper and deeper into loneliness and lies awake at night listening to the screams of the ocean beneath his family’s rickety house.
Then he meets Diana, who makes him wonder what he even knows about love, and Teeth, who makes him question what he knows about anything. Rudy can’t remember the last time he felt so connected to someone, but being friends with Teeth is more than a little bit complicated. He soon learns that Teeth has terrible secrets. Violent secrets. Secrets that will force Rudy to choose between his own happiness and his brother’s life.
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“[A]n ungothic gothic, a harshly unmagical work of magical realism…no matter what readers are expecting, they’re certain to find surprises. Between the provocative questions, the warm and weird friendship, and the blurring of the edges of reality, readers will be hooked.”
“[R]ealistic, even gritty, drama, fueled by Moskowitz’s brand of stream-of-consciousness wonder, tumbling emotion, and dark undertones.”
Read an Excerpt
AT NIGHT THE OCEAN IS SO LOUD AND SO CLOSE THAT I LIE awake, sure it’s going to beat against the house’s supports until we all crumble onto the rocks and break into pieces. Our house is creaky, gray, weather stained. It’s probably held a dozen desperate families who found their cure and left before we’d even heard about this island.
We are a groan away from a watery death, and we’ll all drown without even waking up, because we’re so used to sleeping through unrelenting noise.
Sometimes I draw. Usually I keep as still as I can. I worry any movement from me will push us over the edge. I don’t even want to blink.
I feel the crashing building up. I always do. I lie in bed with my eyes open and focus on a peak in my uneven ceiling and pretend I know how to meditate. You are not moving. You are not drowning. It’s just rain. It’s your imagination. Go to sleep.
That pounding noise is pavement under your feet, is sex, is your mother’s hands on your brother’s chest, is something that is not water.
It’s not working, not tonight. I sit up and grab my pad and pen to sketch myself, standing. Dry.
Sometimes the waves hit the shore so hard that I can’t even hear the screaming.
But usually I can. Tonight I can, and it hits me too hard for me to draw. I need to learn how to draw a scream.
I close my eyes and listen. I always do this; I listen like I am trying to desensitize myself, like if I just let the screams fill my ears long enough, I will get bored and I will forget and I will go to sleep.
It doesn’t work. I need to calm down.
It’s just the wind.
Not water. Not anyone. Go to sleep.
Some nights the screams are louder than others. Some nights they’re impossible to explain away, like my mom tries, as really just the wind passing through the cliffs. “Like in an old novel,” she says. “It’s romantic.” Her room doesn’t face the ocean.
Fiona, down on the south end of the island, says it’s the ghost, but Fiona’s bag-of-bats crazy and just because we’re figuring out some magic is real doesn’t mean I’m allowed to skip straight to ghost in an effort to make my life either more simple or more exciting. God, what the fuck do I even want?
I should figure it out and then wish for it and see what happens. Who the hell knows? Magic island, after all.
Magic fish, anyway. They heal.
That’s the real story, that’s the story everyone knows, but it’s hardly the only one that darts around.
There are creatures in the water no one’s ever seen except out of the corner of his eyes.
The big house is haunted.
Maybe we’re all haunted.
I only take the legends seriously at night. The house is rocking, and the stories are the only thing to keep me company.
Stories, me, and ocean, and however the hell many magic fish, while my family sleeps downstairs and my real life sleeps a thousand miles away.
At home I never would have believed this shit. I used to be a reasonable person. But now we’re living on this island that is so small and isolated that it really feels like it’s another world, with rules like none I learned growing up. We came here from middle America. We stepped into a fairy tale.
And my brother is better but isn’t well, so color me increasingly despondent, magic fish.
Out in the ocean the shrieks continue, as high and hollow as whistles. I get up and press my face against the window. My room is the highest part of our kneeling house.
The panes on my windows are thick and uneven. Probably the windows were made by hand. Even if it weren’t so dark, I’d still hardly be able to see. Everything’s distorted like I’m looking through glasses that don’t belong to me.
But I can just make out the waves, grabbing on to the shore with foamy fingers and sliding back into the surf. I squint long enough and make out white peaks in the dark water.
“Go to sleep,” I say.
I close my eyes and listen to the screams. I pretend it’s my brother, my little brother, who has cystic fibrosis and this fucked-up chest and can’t scream at all. Pretend this island has done the magic it was supposed to do, and he’s okay. And we can go home.
It’s just that at home there’s so much green—trees and grass and Dad’s rosebushes—and the water isn’t ocean, it’s what comes from the garden hose and the sprinklers and the fire hydrant when me and my friends pry it open. It’s the sweat dripping down our faces. Home. We’d smoke cigarettes in the back of Abe’s van, still soaked from the hydrant, and brag about the stunts he’d pulled. I’d lie to them all and tell them stories about the time I was arrested or my dad was arrested or, hell, that my baby brother was arrested. Back when he was just a two-year-old with a bad cough, toddling down the steps to chase us.
Home, before we had any idea how shitty this could get. When lung transplants and miracle cures were for other people.
Before we were desperate enough to believe, before we were a family alone in a dark room with everything crashing.
You’ll cling to anything.
I fall asleep imagining I’m on a plane home. There isn’t even an airport here.
Meet the Author
Hannah Moskowitz is the award-winning author of the young adult novels Break; Invincible Summer; Gone, Gone, Gone; and Teeth; as well as the middle grade novels Zombie Tag and Marco Impossible. She lives in New York City. Learn more at HannahMoskowitz.com.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I read this over my beach vacation, and I zipped through it super fast. Its such a good book. Its filled with heart break and love and so many other things. Teeths not really who you think he is by reading the prolog. This book showed how much people in your life mean to you and what you'll go through to save them.
This is my first book by Hannah Moskowitz, but it certainly won't be my last. Teeth is strange. It's perfect. It's heartbreaking and wonderful and lovely. It's so many things wrapped up in an amazing book. The writing... well, I'll just say that I'd do anything to write like Hannah Moskowitz. Even though I've never read anything else by her, I don't believe anyone else could have written this story like she did. The characters brought this story to life. Teeth will always have a very special place in my heart. Always. The romance is subtle, but powerful. It's certainly not the knock you on your butt romance that many people desire in their books, but it's so much better. It couldn't have been done in a more realistic way. This is a crappy review of a fantastic book. Go read it instead. You won't be disappointed. You can read all of my reviews on my blog, KDH Reviews.
This was a very strange story. Have never read anything even close to this before. It was good but not great. Not for the young reader due to subject matter which caught me off guard.
Rudy’s little brother has cystic fibrosis and is steadily going downhill. His parents find out about this remote island with fish that heal the sick so they up and move the family there. The island is full of mostly elderly people who must stay on the island in order to remain healthy. With only his little brother to keep him company, Rudy quickly grows bored. Things start to look up when he meets Diana, a reclusive girl about his age. Then he meets Teeth and suddenly, he has all the excitement he can take. Umm… I just… Where do I…? Okay, here goes: this book was weird. Not good weird, or even bad weird. Just weird. The characters were … unusual. Rudy was a typical older brother; he cared about his little brother and wanted to help him, but he was also angry over everything he’d lost in order for his brother to get better. The boy’s parents were singularly focused on making Dylan healthy, to the exclusion of their other son. Diana was reclusive because both she and her mother were hiding something from the island. She was very naiive and coy, but also very trusting. I think she was just lonely. Teeth, well, he was Teeth. Teeth was a half-fish/half-man who was targeted by the island’s fishermen because he tried to protect the fish that the islanders needed to eat. He was angry and shy and curious and protective. The plot was interesting enough. I liked the idea of the magical fish that could heal anyone. The fact that anyone who was sick must stay on the island as long as they wanted to stay healthy, effectively trapping them there for life, was creepy and interesting. The story of Teeth’s early life was sad and interesting. There were some definite high points in the book, like the friendship between Teeth and Rudy. It bordered on a romantic relationship, but it was never defined as one or the other. I felt that was realistic and honest, just like Rudy’s pseudo-relationship with Diana. Was it or wasn’t it? Did it really have to be named? The writing was easy enough to follow. The sentences followed more of a train-of-thought approach, as opposed to standard sentences. It worked in this story, though; it matched Rudy’s attitude perfectly. I was able to go along with the idea of magic fish and even a fish boy, until one point in the novel, about 2/3 of the way in. Something happened then that was so far out of left field, it pulled me right out of the story. It was the very definition of jumping the shark. From that point on, I had a hard time staying in the story. It just ruined the whole thing for me. If you’re curious about the particular scene, it is mentioned in several Goodreads reviews, feel free to seek those out. There is a lot of cussing and you see the aftermath of rape. Descripitvely. So many people praise this book on their blogs and on Goodreads, so I was surprised with my feelings for it. Perhaps I’m not cerebral or abstract enough to appreciate the writing? Either way, though I felt it was okay, I will not actively seek out any of Hannah Moskowitz’s other works. The sum up: While I appreciate the story telling and dialogue, I don’t think this author and I clicked.
I was drawn to this book because I liked the sound of the premise, a sick brother and secrets of his new friend that might make him have to chose between saving the two. Teeth delivered on so many levels, though I must say, this is a strange book. And being in Rudy's head felt pretty choppy at times... or maybe it was her particular writing style in this book. Because I felt like there really weren't a whole lot of transitions, it was from one thing to the next... but with Rudy, the main character's state of mind, it very well could be intentional. This is not my favorite that Hannah wrote, but I still think it was definitely worth my time to read it. It took me on a journey and made me question what I would do if I were in Rudy's position, or Diana's mom's, or especially in the character Teeth's places. For me it wasn't a book that I could just read in one sitting, because it was dark, Rudy had a fairly dirty mouth, and it was deep stuff that I was reading. Teeth is a modern day fairy tale, and it has mystical or fantasy elements that are at first a little hard to believe, but Rudy had a hard time with it as well, so that's doable. There is something special about this town that heals, and once Rudy meets some of the strange people in the town, like Teeth, he is forced to make some very hard choices, and I wondered many times how or if there would be a happy ending. In this very dark book, the ending didn't come how I would have wanted, but I think that it is the only fitting way to wrap the story up. Though I was still left with questions because I wasn't really sure how things were left between Diana and Rudy and Rudy and Teeth. I had many ideas, but none of them were really confirmed. I see a lot of clues in the story to make it point to one thing, but it never really said. Bottom line: Strange but worthwhile book about tough issues and choices.
Bar none, the best YA book I've read in a long time. The story is original, bizarre, and fantastical, yet its themes and writing style are so gritty and raw that even the most magical of elements seem completely realistic. And the characters will steal your heart away -- my two favorite relationships were the relationships that Rudy (the main character) has with his younger brother, who has cystic fibrosis and relies on the Loki fish to cure him, as well as with Teeth, the mysterious fishboy who haunts the island. Difficult to explain in a few words, but worth every cent! I couldn't put it down. Miss Moskowitz has done it again!!! A must read, I'm recommending it to all of my friends :)