[This] is a partnership made in heaven. In Everything Is Teeth, a crazily evocative graphic memoir about Wyld’s shark-infested childhood, words and pictures are in perfect harmony, the joins between them so seamless you could almost be watching an old black-and-white film ... What a fantastic book this is. Sumner’s drawings are adorable and acute; Wyld’s words are first wry and then wise. Embracing life and death and everything in between, in Wyld’s hands the shark is a powerful metaphor: it stands for those demons that, when faced down, mostly turn out to be far less terrifying than they appeared at first.
The darkly poetic voice she evoked in her previous work reveals itself in a different way here, working within the constraints of writing text for a cartoon frame. At times limitations can bring freedom, and the very terseness required here offers power, linguistic clarity and dramatic opportunities that draw the reader into an emotionally compelling world ... The anxieties expressed here extend beyond sharks, naturally. The obvious touchstone here is Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, and Wyld likewise delivers an incisive portrait of a father who provides a forceful foil for the main character ... The power of the prose in Everything is Teeth is magnified by Joe Sumner's illustrations, which combine primitive yet delicate portraits of the girl and her surroundings with viciously realistic renderings of sharks swimming through the pages. Readers can feel the heroine's palpable fright as she refuses to enter the sea to swim with her family ... a magical trip into a world that we're happy to glimpse from the shore.
To read their collaboration, though, is to experience Sumner’s artwork at least as much as Wyld’s sparse, reflective narration ... Sumner’s artwork here is mostly as broad and plain as a woodcut, black lines augmented with nothing but pale sand-yellow and sky blue; he draws Wyld and her family with circular heads and blunted triangles for noses. But when the sharks and other scary sea creatures turn up, he renders them in detail, and sometimes with a full spectrum of color ... Her sentences — often just two or three of them on each page — are clean and subdued, with an occasional poetic swerve.
Everything is Teeth is strange, but its uniqueness is one of the memoir’s greatest assets. This is a book that isn’t afraid to be what it is, which is a meditation on childhood obsession and anxiety ... Wyld writes in such a lyrical prose that oftentimes Everything is Teeth has a poetic feeling to it. Joe Sumner’s gorgeous illustrations add a nice layer of beauty to the already fragile story ... packs the emotional punch of something twice its size.
The opening, in which Wyld recounts her summers in Australia growing up, feels more like a pastoral text with illustrations—the first few pages consist of full pages of art accompanied by stark narration. Eventually, this gives way to multiple panels; a few pages after that, the first word of dialogue appears. The effect in these early pages is interesting: mostly black-and-white linework, with the addition of a contrasting shark’s fin in certain panels. It reads like a collage or an intrusion, establishing an aesthetic mode that will proceed through various permutations in the book ... As tensions within Wyld’s family increase, she tells stories of sharks to her brother; Sumner veers between photorealistic illustrations of sharks and a more stylized, cartoonish approach for rendering the family. The juxtaposition is striking ... For readers of Wyld’s earlier work, Everything Is Teeth provides a different perspective on how the natural world can turn hostile, and how anxieties and fears can pervade all aspects of perception. Sumner’s subtle use of color and multiple stylistic approaches make for an interesting visual experience, and this collaboration is enlightening in its expansive exploration of dread and time.
Evie Wyld offers an unsettling, moving exploration of the anxieties of childhood in this extraordinary graphic novel memoir of her summers spent with family in coastal New South Wales, Australia. In spare, poetic prose, Wyld paints a vivid picture of the sultry heat, the muddy river, her six-year-old self obsessed with stories from visiting farmers and fishermen, of sharks, sea snakes, 'something that lurks beneath the surface' ... The artist uses photorealistic color images of sharks amid black and white line drawings to great effect.”