House of Teeth by Dan Jolley
My rating: three stars
Genre: Middle grade, contemporary fantasy?
Goodreads summary: There’s more to the swamplands than meets the teeth. In this supernatural tale of magic and mysticism, Henry Lemarchand grew up in Philadelphia knowing very little of his family—his father disappeared when he was young, leaving behind only a strange pouch of animal teeth. When he is sent to the Louisiana bayou to spend the summer with his eccentric uncle and cousin in their decaying ancestral mansion, Henry learns about his family’s supernatural legacy—he is part of a long line of rootcrafters, folks who can absorb the powers and memories of anyone whose teeth they touch. In delving into his family’s strange legends, Henry soon discovers that some secrets bite back, especially in the swamplands. This tale of identity awareness and the need for belonging, is set in a world where everything is not as it seems.
This was one of my two free Audible originals for the month. I don’t know if I would usually pick up something like this, but I actually had a good time listening to it. It is a middle grade novel, so I took that as a factor when reviewing it. I didn’t expect this book to be super complex and deep, but it honestly took me by surprise.
Likes: The idea of rootcrafting was so cool!! Being able to gain powers by touching the teeth of animals is just insane! There are other things the teeth can do but I won’t say because it is a slight spoiler. The story was predictable to me in some parts, however, there was one thing in relation to the bad guy that I never saw coming. So that was a nice surprise, especially for a middle grade book. I also liked how the book went into the background of the different characters and the history of rootcrafting. A lot of books would usually gloss over that, and so it was nice to have some history in the story.
Dislike: I don’t like how the mom kept all these secrets, even after she knew that it was likely that Henry is a rootcrafter. She just sent her son to another state across the country without explaining anything to him. I am trying to be vague here so that there aren’t any spoilers, but something happens in the book to where they don’t have supervision for a long while. This thing that happened seemed to have no purpose except to get rid of certain characters which was annoying. I just thought there could have been a better way to do that. The character’s choices also seemed unrealistic at parts. Henry goes off on his own a lot, and I understand that he is an adventurous kid who would do that, but there are scenes where I doubt that he would. Other characters that you learn about later in the story also did things that just seemed unrealistic and like they chose those actions to make conflict.
Overall, I gave this book three out of four stars. I deducted one star because I just didn’t love this book. As stated in earlier reviews, the difference between a four and a five is usually just a feeling (unless there is actually something I didn’t like about the book). I took another star off because of the event that is unnecessary and because of the unrealistic character choices. I just feel like the mom wouldn’t keep that secret when she knew her son would need help, and I feel like the characters themselves wouldn’t have acted the way they did. It seems like a lot of the action characters took were simply to help the author take the story where he wanted it to go, instead of the characters doing something that seemed realistic given their personality.