... the perfect baby shower gift for someone you hate. Absolutely captivating and scathingly frank, it’s a story of motherhood stripped of every ribbon of sentimentality. Arnett conjures up the disturbing mixture of devotion and alienation endured by anyone raising a child they don’t understand, don’t even like ... Arnett’s sympathetic attention to the cascading flow of Sammy’s depression is heartbreaking. But between every chapter, the novel offers one-page moments, each from a different minor character’s point of view. It’s just a fleeting switch in perspective, easy to discount, but oddly base-shifting if you pay attention. Again and again, we’re reminded that Sammie’s hermetically sealed understanding of her dismal situation is not necessarily complete—or even correct ... strangely shrewd and tender ... Arnett is that rare, brave writer willing to articulate the darkest thoughts even the best parents entertain while trudging along through the most challenging job in the world.
Arnett’s humor jets throughout and is funniest when it’s curt ... Arnett’s account of self-imposed L.G.B.T. respectability politics is poignant: How can we be human without reflecting badly on others in the community, when our failures already seem, 'for lots of folks … like a foregone conclusion?' ... This structure is well intended: We’re meant to assemble our own understanding of Samson. But it’s a pity With Teeth gives us only abled people’s materials to work with, as it ends up framing disabled people as the unknowable objects of others’ scrutiny. The novel wants us to critique Sammie’s prejudices; it might even understand those prejudices as ableist. But ultimately its treatment of disabled people is indistinguishable from that of broader society ... Any narrative necessarily reflects a given consciousness. This particular one depicts disabled people through an abled character’s lens in order to facilitate the latter’s arc. Some readers take inherent issue with such books existing. I don’t; all storytelling foregrounds someone, and the protagonist needn’t always be me. But there are many novels about the experience of abled parents of disabled children, few that care what it’s like to be that kid, and fewer still that imagine disabled adults as having our own complex inner lives ... sublimely weird, fluently paced, brazenly funny and gayer still, and it richly deserves to find readers. I just hope someone will finally ask Samson what’s wrong.
... among the more satisfying and accomplished books of the past year ... Arnett signals her writerly evolution from the first lines of this new work. Allowing no spare moment for the reader to acclimate themselves, the taut, confident opening chapter of With Teeth immediately establishes the punctuated tension and merciless urgency that the earlier effort sometimes lacked. For all the accomplishments of the latter...Arnett now pushes in a new direction and ends up with a follow-up novel of greater skill, ambition, and poignancy than the first ... In a manner more fully realized than in her first effort, here Arnett crafts a protagonist that the reader comes to feel for despite her clear flaws ... For all the wisdom of the point-of-view decision on the macro level, at the micro Arnett’s mechanics and structure do, at spots, belie a lack of total comfort in the form ... The completely unexpected, nearly absurd, wonderfully strange passage that serves as inspiration for the title is indicative of With Teeth’s refreshing interest in the art of the scene. At times, Arnett would be better served staying a while longer in a given moment...Overall, however, the book moves so quickly in leaping, lingering, then leaping once more, that the reader is constantly engaged and excited to read ahead ... As the book progresses, it is the strangeness, the off-white coloring in which Arnett paints, that provides the momentum ... The best moments of With Teeth are when Arnett fully settles into a slice of Sammi’s life and mind, letting rich prose seamlessly guide the narrative from physical description to inner thoughts. In a novel that often embodies in form the hectic interpersonal dynamics of the twenty-first century American family that it takes as content, even brief moments of reprise stand as key landmarks. By taking a second to breathe, we are able to keep pace with so wide-ranging a plot, to stay invested in the characters and outcome ... Arnett has managed to wrangle the wilds of love, family, and motherhood to tell an engaging, voluminous story in bright, lucid prose.
... an unflinching look at queerness, parental relationships and how we affect one another in the process of figuring it all out ... A character study focused on stay-at-home Sammie told over the course of several years doesn't have much by way of plot to carry the story forward. In its place is a slow burn of ruminations on what it means to give up your life in service of raising a child, trying to fit into queer circles as parenting takes center stage, the tension of middle age, and how we all succeed or fail at connecting with those we love, as well as ourselves ... Fans of Arnett’s first novel, Mostly Dead Things, will find similarities between the two texts thanks to the author’s predilection for sussing out the most unseemly parts of being alive and a member of a family. But where the former text deals with that lot grieving a loss, With Teeth looks more closely at living in stasis, the small horrors of parenting and how we affect those we love the most when we’re hurting ... an at-times horrifying read, and almost frustratingly un-put-down-able given how little actually happens. Arnett is a master of tension-building as Sammie bumbles her way through parenting a son she isn’t even sure she likes and who definitely has a few troubling behavioral problems ... though its ending feels a bit underwhelming and even a bit cliche, Arnett’s voice and style help pull off something that would otherwise leave a lot to be desired. Her lush renderings of the world around Sammie make even Central Florida at its muggiest seem romantic ... Overall, the psychological examinations at the heart of "With Teeth" make for a gripping read. Unabashedly queer, probing and unafraid, With Teeth is an exceedingly engaging sophomore outing from Arnett, solidifying her place in the pantheon of contemporary writers taking long, hard looks at difficult and at-times unseemly topics without shying away from humanity’s worst impulses ... Here is a story with a chewy, sinewy bite that will leave you hard-pressed to look away.
It’s gripping. At just over three hundred pages, it only took me a night and a half to finish this love letter to the lesbian, Central Florida lifestyle ... I would’ve finished it sooner if sleep hadn’t taken me hostage for a time ... It’s labeled variously as literary fiction or lesbian literature, but With Teeth is more like a horror story to me ... as I read the last e-mail Sammie sends Samson, literal chills went up my spine ... You know you shouldn’t keep watching the train wreck that is Sammie’s life happening page after page, but much like each new article about Florida Man you see on your Twitter feed, you’re helpless to the pull ... sometimes Sammie comes up with golden nuggets about being queer that take your breath away ... almost three hundred pages from the point of view of a character whom I was trying to like, or at least to empathize with, and suddenly those last few pages hit. Once you read them, you’ll understand when I say Arnett has a gift for the Shyamalan-style twist.
With Teeth is a decidedly Floridian tale about family, and the stories — true or not — we tell ourselves about where we fit into our family unit and the world at large. Through alternating laughs and audible gasps of horror, readers will come away from Kristen Arnett's darkly comic story with a new appreciation for the mysteries and puzzling perspectives each person we cross paths with holds inside ... At less than 300 pages, take it with you to the beach and you could easily finish this one in a long weekend.
...a frank, sometimes dark, often funny portrayal of queer parenthood ... Arnett walks a fine line between humor and pathos, sensitively conveying Sammie's loss of a social circle, her fear that others will judge a lesbian couple unfit to parent a boy, and her abdication of self for marriage and family ... Complicated, fearless and confidently messy, With Teeth should resonate with any reader who has ever felt like a stranger in their own life.
... a fantastic follow-up ... a hilarious and astute dive into the not-so-fun parts of parenthood. Arnett shows her range with laugh-out-loud scenes and moments of honest sadness as she puts protagonist Sammie through the wringer. With Teeth begins with an attempted child abduction at a playground; just try to stop reading after such a harrowing scene ... Though it is obvious that many of Sammie’s actions are the cause of her alienation, readers will still root for her from start to finish in this complex picture of queer parenthood.
Sammie’s profound imperfection will be a source of relief to queer parents everywhere; her bond with her son is complicated and fraught ... The novel’s crescendo bends toward questions of plot (what is actually happening here) when the existential questions are more compelling (what is life for a not-young queer woman struggling in parenthood). Even so, this book is equal parts Florida queer and fascinating.
Arnett writes movingly of the loneliness Sammie feels in the queer community once she becomes a parent ... Arnett deftly examines the psychological dynamics of a family, raising complicated questions about whether mothers can ever truly understand how to raise sons and whether our children, too often, are mirrors of our own worst tendencies. A novel that is not afraid to look at the underbelly of parenting, queer relationships, and middle age.
Arnett paints a complex picture of a queer family in this well-sculpted drama ... Arnett’s prismlike prose is supplemented by vignettes focused on peripheral characters, such as Samson’s teachers, which add some maximalist flair to the domestic story. With its vividly rendered characters, this offers an intense rendition of a modern family.