Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Teeth Book Poster Image
Rough language, sexual violence mar odd maritime fable.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teeth is set on a magical island that bears little resemblance to reality. The novel's fable-like quality allows some of the characters to behave in ways that would not work within a real-life fishing community.

Positive Messages

Teeth explores the meaning of friendship and the nature of family bonds. Rudy, the protagonist, struggles to do what's right for his ailing younger brother while trying to protect his fish-like friend, Teeth. Unfortunately, Rudy's language and behavior are sometimes so grating and hysterical that they undercut the positive aspects of the novel's theme.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cut off from this friends, isolated within a family undergoing tremendous stress, Rudy is a boy with many reasons to be bitter and lonely. His language and behavior, however, are so grating and harsh that they may undercut the reader's sympathy for him. In a more realistic setting, Rudy might have more options to behave with more insight and less hysteria. As it is, he struggles toward redemption but never quite makes it.


Throughout Teeth, the title character is tormented by the local fisherman -- regularly beaten, tortured, and, it is strongly suggested, sexually assaulted. For the most part, these assaults are not depicted; only the aftermath is. Teeth is a human/fish hybrid, the result of an act of trans-species rape, the details of which are described fleetingly. A number of people are killed in a shootout. 


Rudy, the protagonist of Teeth, talks often about his plans to "f--k" Diane, his mysterious neighbor and sometimes girlfriend, but they seem to do little more than engage in heavy make-out sessions. 


The language in Teeth is extremely rough and may make some readers very uncomfortable. Variations of "f--k" and "s--t" are used countless times, with a smattering of lesser curses: "hell," "damn," "bastard," and "bitch."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Rudy reminisces about drinking with his friends back home, but there are no scenes of substance abuse in Teeth.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Teeth is a contemporary fantasy novel with extremely strong language, including countless uses of "f--k" and "s--t." There's a fair amount of violence, including beatings, torture, sexual assault, and several deaths in a shootout. Rudy, the protagonist, garners some sympathy, but his language and actions are sometimes so harsh and hysterical (lots of yelling and cursing and wailing at the unfairness of it all) that they detract from the novel's theme of friendship and loyalty.

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What's the story?

Rudy's family has come to a remote island with the hope that a diet of magical fish will cure his younger brother's cystic fibrosis. In the local waters, he discovers a mysterious half-human/half-fish hybrid who calls himself Teeth, and the two develop a strange, emotionally loaded friendship. But when it becomes clear that the welfare of his brother and of Teeth are at terrible odds, Rudy must decide where to put his loyalty.

Is it any good?

TEETH has a distinctive (if extremely crude) narrative voice and an intriguing setup, but its fable-like quality is undercut by its refusal to play by the rules of logic. While perfectly willing to believe in fish/human hybrids, Rudy immediately dismisses seeking help on the island or elsewhere. With the exception of Rudy's brother Dylan, all the characters seem to operate at a level of maximum hysteria, which becomes exhausting after a while.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence and how it's used in fiction. Do you find it effective in Teeth or over the top? 

  • Why do you think half-human/half-creature stories remain so popular, from ancient mythology to contemporary fantasy novels? 

  • What might it feel like to leave all your friends behind and live in a new, isolated environment?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Themes & Topics

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