Teeth by Kelli Owen is a fantastic book. Let’s get that out of the way first. If you haven’t read Kelli Owen, fix that now. She is an amazing writer with an incredible voice. Her stories keep you turning the pages until the end, and when they end, you’re angry. You’re not angry because they’re bad. You’re angry because there isn’t more. You want more. You need more. That is the sign of the great writer. This is what Ms. Owen does best. She gets you from the beginning and doesn’t let you go. Teeth her newest book is no exception, and it might be one of her best.
Teeth has a simple premise. What if vampires are real? How would society react to them? How could they integrate and become part of society? What if your neighbor was a vampire? How would you react? These are questions you will think about while you read this book. Kelli Owen takes the vampire tropes and rewrites them. Her approach to vampires is refreshing and original, and she needs to write more.
In Teeth the word vampire or vamp is a slur. They call vampires Lamian. Vampires are connected to humanity, instead of being the undead, they are alive. The gene that causes Lamians to exist is recessive and will hit during puberty. People who have the gene awaken, lose their incisors and grow fangs. Some people don’t even know that they have the gene in their family bloodline since it can be dormant for many generations. The people who become lamian can still live without human blood. They eat raw meat or can drink animal blood and that can appease their appetites. Many people see the lamians as freaks and unnatural. They want the lamians out and separate from them. Most of the lamians just want the same rights as everybody else. By doing this, Kelli Owen takes the trope of the vampire being evil and turns it into one where they’re second-class citizens and a minority group who the reader sympathizes with. It’s a brilliant idea, and it’s executed well.
This book follows a few different characters. Tamara, the daughter of a police officer named Connor and his wife Jacqueline. Jacqueline’s parents adopted her and her real parents were lamian. Her doctor prescribed medication, so her lamian genes stayed dormant. Tamara just grew her teeth, and Jacqueline has learned the truth about her past. Together they’re discovering how to exist as lamian and embrace their existence. Tamara has lost her best friend at school because her teeth grew and she’s become an outcast. Her father is investigating a series of murders where people are found dead with their blood drained.
Then there’s Andrea and her son Dillon. Dillon has also grown his teeth and Andrea can’t believe her son is a lamian. Andrew watches a steady diet of Fox and Friends and believes her son is a monster and that she has to stop him before he does something serious. Dillon has no friends at school and no support at home. He’s a boy who just needs someone to love him. His mother sees him as a monster and most of the people at school leave him alone. Every day the mother comes to terms with killing him because she can’t let a monster live.
Also, we have Madison, one of Tamara’s friends. Unlike Tamara’s best friend, Madison still likes Tamara and doesn’t view her differently because she has teeth. While the other kids see Tamara as a freak, Madison still sees her as a friend.
The main antagonist is Henry, Henry is a human who wants to be a lamian. He doesn’t have the gene, but he wishes he did. He was an outcast as a child and an adult and lamians are the only people he’s identified with. Despite being a human, he has developed an appetite for human blood. Then there is Maximillian who is an old lamian who runs a lamian support group. He’s one face of equality for lamians and he has been alive for a long time too. As the book progresses these characters meet and communicate. Their paths cross and the narrative continues. You will have more sympathy for the lamians than you will for the humans.
Teeth is a book about equality and existence. It’s a book about tolerance and hate. Kelli Owen tackles many large ideas in this book and she does so very well. It also mixes genres, it’s a coming of age story, mixed with a thriller. It’s a story about equality buried in a police procedural. It’s a horror book, but it’s much more than horror. This book is slim but meaty. This is a book you want to sink your teeth into and drain everything from. It’s nearly flawless. Kelli Owen has been writing for a while, and she is the queen of horror thrillers. Teeth is a perfect starting point. It has everything a horror fan can want in a book. Characters to root for, and a character you want to see die. Some gruesome gore and violence, and some intense thrills. It has some heartwarming parts and characters you will fall in love with.
Teeth seems to have gone under the radar and that’s a shame. It’s a fantastic book that takes old tropes and makes them new. Kelli Owen is a strong voice in the horror scene, but she deserves a wider audience. This book represents a writer at the top of her game, but it also shows that Owen is full of surprises. I can’t wait to see what she does next, I know that every time she writes a book she takes old tropes and makes them new. I would love to see what she tackles next. If you’re a horror fan, or you’re tired of vampire tropes, read this book.