... 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.
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.