Review: Teeth edited by Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling

Harper Teen, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-193515-2

Available: New Paperback

Teeth is a ripping collection of nineteen vampire stories contributed by proven authors, including Melissa Marr, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix and Tanith Lee. Each one is dark and original, and many are ethnic tales, making the collection a great world legends anthology. There is some humor, and plenty of teen angst, but mixed among these benign elements are stories with gruesome themes and vampire violence.  Overall, the subjects stay securely in the young adult arena, but most are sophisticated enough for adults.

The “Introduction” by Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow is fascinating reading, dealing with legends and the evolution of the genre. Vampire lovers and short story readers will all find something to love about this collection. Here are a few of my favorite stories:

“Things to Know About Being Dead” by Genevieve Valentine

Sue is a high school student  who doesn’t quite survive her best friend slamming their car into a tree. It’s not easy to hide being Jiang-shi, an undead blood drinker; and it’s a nasty state; the usual vampiric perks do not apply. Plagued by anxiety over her difficult immortality, Sue takes comfort in her ghostly new friend, Jake, a suicide victim she somehow brought back into the living world. Without the advice and sacrifice of her grandmother, Sue would surely deteriorate into a demonic dirt-sleeper.  How will she cope when her grandmother dies?

“Baby” by Kathe Koja

Creepy and stylistic, “Baby” deals with the unsavory relationship of a little girl, Jani and a jealous, doll size demon-creature who sweetly “latches on” to her, drawing blood and creating a permanent bond. Bizarre psychological turmoil is uncovered as Jani’s needs change and she outgrows her “baby.” This is a short, haunting tale of obsession and dependency, and, while the text isn’t graphic, the dark implications are effectively disturbing.

“All Smiles” by Steve Berman

Saul manages to escape from a boot camp for teen offenders, only to land in a far worse spot: the front seat of a sleek sedan driven by Marley and Dutch, gorgeous siblings with dazzling smiles and a demonic will to party. Saul’s happy with the ride until he reveals his tattoo of Hebrew scripture, and the pair reveal their true natures. The ink prevents them from eating him, and Saul will have his chance to be a hero. The choices Saul makes once he’s out of danger are bold and leave the reader hoping for a sequel.

“The Perfect Dinner Party” by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

Jenny, Charles’ little sister, describes the finer points of Southern etiquette. Courtesy counts, even if you plan to kill your guests and drink their blood. Charles just wants a girlfriend he can keep with him forever; unfortunately, no one measures up to Jenny’s ideal.  As the pair entertain a potential mate, their maker, Mr. DuChamp enters and spoils the whole party. Reminiscent of Anne Rice, the veteran authors paint a gorgeous American Gothic tale with a cool sensitivity to the perils and perks of being undead.

Highly recommended for 6th grade to adult.

Contains: mild violence, veiled sexual and drug references.

Reviewed by: Sheila Shedd


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