What Big Teeth
by Rose Szabo
Published by: Farrar Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication date: February 2nd 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Gothic, Young Adult
Rose Szabo’s thrilling debut What Big Teeth is a dark, gothic fantasy YA novel about a teen girl who returns home to her strange, wild family after years of estrangement, perfect for fans of Wilder Girls.
Eleanor Zarrin has been estranged from her wild family for years. When she flees boarding school after a horrifying incident, she goes to the only place she thinks is safe: the home she left behind. But when she gets there, she struggles to fit in with her monstrous relatives, who prowl the woods around the family estate and read fortunes in the guts of birds.
Eleanor finds herself desperately trying to hold the family together. In order to save them all Eleanor must learn to embrace her family of monsters and tame the darkness inside her.
Exquisitely terrifying, beautiful, and strange, this fierce paranormal fantasy will sink its teeth into you and never let go.
I jolted awake, my hands loosening from my throat. Had I been strangling myself? My throat was dry. I stumbled to my feet. Water, I needed water.
Through the crack in the bathroom door, I could see Mother sleeping in her bathtub. I didn’t want to wake her, so I crept down the back staircase and past the closed laundry door, trying not to think about Grandma Persephone’s body laid out on the flagstones. I slipped into the kitchen and was halfway to the sink when I realized I wasn’t alone.
Margaret stood in the middle of the room with her back to me. She was working at the long low table, her hands doing something I couldn’t see, something that squelched. I held very still at the sink, not sure what to do. She would notice me if I tried to leave, or if I turned on the faucet.
I had to be brave, I told myself. This was my family. Margaret used to stand me on a stool and let me help her in the kitchen, I remembered. Help with what, I wasn’t quite sure.
I shifted so that I could see what she was doing, and had to stifle a gasp.
There was a vulture spread out on the butcher block, its naked neck and head hanging down. Its wings were as long as the table. Its belly was slit open, the knife she’d used was stuck point-first into the wood, and she was rummaging around inside its body, mumbling to herself as though she were looking for something in a handbag. Slick guts caught the moonlight. She combed through them for what felt like an eternity while I was frozen on the spot, not able to move. And then she looked up and turned to me. She held up a length of gut in bloody hands. She seemed to look at me and past me at the same time.
“Mother!” she said.
The back of my neck went cold. I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping I was still dreaming, that if I shut my eyes I’d wake up back in bed, and if I shut my eyes again I’d wake up in my room at Saint Brigid’s, and from there I could shut my eyes and wake up a child again, somewhere in some house just like this one, but where I’d been happy.
Margaret’s feet scuffed on the floor as she padded over to me. One hand, wet and sticky, touched my wrist. She pulled on it. Eyes shut still, I let her lead me, until my fingers brushed feathers, and I realized all at once what was about to happen.
I struggled, but she was stronger than me. She plunged my hand into the guts. I thrashed, silently, afraid of what would happen if I screamed, afraid to open my eyes and see what was happening to me. And then all at once, I felt it. It was as if there were words, in there, in the guts. I relaxed my hand. I felt. The smell of dead meat and guano was almost unbearable, but somewhere in there was the truth. I just had to fight my way through to it.
But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make sense of it. At last, I opened my eyes. I shook my head at Margaret. She let go of my wrist, flinging it away from her like some useless thing. And I fled into the predawn garden and desperately pumped water from the spigot to wash the smell of blood from my hands.
Rose Szabo is a nonbinary writer from Richmond, VA, where they live with an assortment of people and animals and teach writing at VCU. They have an MA in English from the University of Maine and an MFA in creative writing from VCU. Their work has been published in See the Elephant and Quaint magazines. What Big Teeth is their first novel.
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