There are a couple of different themes simmering in the background of this novella by Betty Rocksteady. Themes of regret and grief are prevalent throughout the story and in Jacalyn, we have a character that struggles to be socially compatible. This struggle results in her doing things which perhaps go against her character. She just wants to fit in, and to do this she steals money from her Poppa and wine from his cellar.
The entire novella plays out like a nightmare, from very early on when Jacalyn is approached by her dead Poppa and is taken to his home, things get very weird and scary very quickly. Poppa seems to be his old self (despite the fact that he is dead!) and Jacalyn slips into her old routine with him with ease. However, the food has a different taste, Poppa’s personality keeps shifting as does the house itself. The house and Poppa seem to have a hold over Jacalyn. There is a malevolent presence that forbids her to leave. Doors open into places that never existed, rooms twist and turn, shift and move, a little bit like the final scenes in the movie Labyrinth where Sarah chases the Goblin king in a desperate search for Toby (you remember the babe? The babe with the power…). Well, at least that’s what I thought anyway…
We don’t know why all of this is happening until later in the story when we get a look at the past and the events that led to Poppa’s death. Like a dark fairy tale, Jagged Little Teeth is just the right length, long enough to keep you enthralled, without overstaying its welcome. There is plenty of vivid and horrific imagery throughout, and the desire to fit in is perhaps something that many readers can relate too. In one way, Jacalyn is a little like Alice-tumbling down the rabbit hole, getting deeper and deeper into trouble and falling further and further away from reality. Jagged Little Teeth pulls you down into a nightmare scenario of body horror and grief through its excellent descriptions and character portrayal. The way in which Rocksteady makes you feel something for Jacalyn, despite what happened in the past is a testament to her continued development as a writer who develops realistic people within her stories.
Jagged Little Teeth is a quick read, but one that is incredibly satisfying and thoughtful. Often horrific, but not without its share of subtle and creepy scares and heart, too. I am a big fan of Betty’s work and look forward to much more from her in the future. I love it.
5/5 creaky floorboards from the Grim Reader.
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