To Be Published July 17, 2018, by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Fiction / Suspense / Thriller
Format: Kindle Edition
Page Count: 320
Hanna knew nothing was wrong with her. But Mommy wanted them to look. Again.
As a young(er) adult, I remember wanting to be a parent. I clearly remember that strong maternal pull to create someone, to nourish them, and to pour all of my love into a little person who would love me back just as intensely. It took longer than I anticipated, but I eventually became that parent that I envisioned. There is no instruction manual about how to parent a child “correctly”, and I have made plenty of mistakes; however, my daughter is loving, smart, and beautiful.
And, thankfully, she has never tried to kill me.
That is more than I can say for little Hanna Jenson. Seven-year-old Hannah Jenson (pronounced “Yenson”) is an elective mute who communicates with nods and gestures. She can speak, but words seem to work better inside her head. Her mommy and daddy love her, they play with her, feed her healthy food, and place her in the best schools. But Hanna hates her mommy. She wants Daddy all to herself, and the only way to make that happen is if Mommy is dead.
So Hanna would act, and give Mommy a chance to act in reply. And then she’d know. If Mommy passed or failed.
Zoje Stage sets up a creepy tale within the backdrop of a normal family from Pittsburgh. A custom-designed home, a successful husband, a stay-at-home wife, and… a possibly demon-possessed daughter.
And with that knowledge, we watch the little Jenson family spiral through uncertainty, indecision, awareness, and different levels of acceptance (and rejection) as they battle the demons (figurative and literal) that plague their daughter.
The story becomes a question of what happens when innocence is not so innocent? It’s the familiar parental war of nature vs. nurture or the human conundrum of love vs. loathe. And, as a parent, while reading this book I found myself on a slippery slope of opinion – often suggesting some things to do to this little girl that weren’t so nurturing.
The dynamics of these characters are puzzled together so perfectly, the reader see-saws between who is actually to blame for all the malevolent behavior that permeates this family. Is it the eccentric but brilliant young girl whose devious plots seem to stem from an internal distrust of her mother? Or is it the mother who struggles to force perfection into her own world despite being bracketed by unhealthy and flawed female relationships? Or could it be the father who has chosen to turn a blind eye to any troubles and instead view his family only through rose-colored glasses?
Daddy was an island that seemed like a paradise in her desire, but was nothing more than a rocky crag that couldn’t save her from drowning. Not with mommy beside him.
I was instantly locked into this family’s fight for survival in this thrilling story that is just a little bit too real for comfort. No comparisons to Hollywood’s Problem Child movie of the 90’s here because that was a comedy and there is nothing funny about Hannah’s chilling moods and deadly schemes to have her daddy all to herself.
I did feel a little cheated in the end though. There should have been a more definitive resolution. I think readers deserved that after the tensely suspenseful buildup. So, that’s why I deducted a half star.
I would highly recommend this debut novel to lovers of suspenseful, thrilling fiction and maybe to couples who are considering having children for the first time. (insert sarcastic side-eyed smile here)!
About the Author
An author of dark and suspenseful novels, Zoje lives in Pittsburgh, PA. Her debut novel Baby Teeth (St. Martin’s Press) will be released 17 July 2018. It will be released in the UK as Bad Apple (Transworld).
(Bio from Goodreads)