“Family History” by Dani Shapiro

Genre: Domestic FictionFamily History
Publisher: Knopf
Pub. Date: 2003

The story reads as a women’s fiction novel with a “literary” vibe. The author explores a family in crisis. “Family History” is a page-turner with flaws, but still worth reading. A young teenage daughter, Kate, returns home from summer camp as a different person shocking her parents, Ned and Rachel. Kate had always been the apple of her parent’s eyes. Before camp, she excelled academically and in sports with a friendly disposition that made her popular in school. Every summer, she had gone to sleep away camp. However, this is the first time Kate returns angry, depressed, and destructive. Her negativity and insolence become even more pronounced as the school year progresses. Her teachers, parents, or even her old friends no longer have any influence on her. Kate is unrecognizable to all that know her. The author nails the parents’ agony in trying to help their child while desperately attempting to understand what is causing her detrimental behaviors. Shapiro can even make you feel sorry for the highly unlikeable girl since she, too, seems clueless about why she is so out of control. This is the point where the flaws come in. The reader never finds out why Kate is so dramatically changed. Is the problem teenage angst on steroids, is she jealous of the new baby, did something happen at camp, or does she have an undiagnosed personality disorder? Since schizophrenia symptoms often show up when someone is in their teens, I went with the last guess. But then again, something horrible could have happened while she was at camp. I was frustrated not having a conclusion. Maybe the author didn’t give her readers an answer because we are often left guessing without an outcome in real life. This is a sad and challenging tale to read. However, as long as you know what you are getting into, I can still recommend this book because of how well the author writes and captures her character’s intensity.

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“Baby Teeth” by Zoje Stage

Genre:          Mystery and Thriller  baby teeth
Publisher:    St. Martin’s Press
Pub. Date:    July 17, 2018

The book is marketed as a “We Need to Talk About Kevin” meets “Gone Girl” meets “The Omen.”   I am not always a fan of commercial fiction, but since I enjoyed both books and liked the movie “The Omen,” I assumed I would enjoy “Baby Teeth.”  Well, I was wrong.   The story is about a disturbing little girl that wishes her mother dead so she can have her father all to herself.   There is suspense at first, but soon chilling turns into repetition, which makes for a boring book.  Just how many times do you want to read about a child viciously attacking her mother?  Or, read about a father who ignores, or plays down his daughter’s behavior?

bad seed

The story attempts to emulate the 1956 movie, “The Bad Seed,” which is also melodramatic storytelling.   In “Teeth” the reader is left wondering just what is wrong with the parents and especially the little girl.  Is she mentally ill, does she have multiple personalities, is she a witch?   This tale shocks for shock purposes only.  There are a lot of good thrillers out there.  Don’t bother with this one.

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I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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