Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Hello y’all! I’m back again with yet another spooky read. Unfortunately, all the books I read around Halloween time won’t hit your feeds until later in the season. At the time I’m writing this, Nothing But Blackened Teeth is being really hyped up in my bookish circles. I was told haunted house. Reuniting friends. Creepy. Expected something larger (this book is a mere 128 pages). That’s not what I got. Let’s jump into it!

Nothing But Blackened Teeth follows five friends (or acquaintances, really) reuniting for a wedding between two of them. Talia has always dreamed of getting married in a haunted house, so old flame Phillip uses his inheritance to make it happen for her and her fiance, Faiz. Troublemaker Lin joins the party late, but he knows from the start what a bad idea this is. And from the second our narrator Cat enters the house, she’s hearing voices and seeing things.

I just have so many feelings about this tiny little novel. Let’s start from the top.

This book starts out hella slow. Which is a problem, when there’s only 128 pages to capture my attention. The events of this book take place solely inside the house, and the backstory and relationships unravel as we move through the haunting. So when we jump right in and pretend the reader knows everything about everyone in the book, it’s not only annoying, but makes me have to go back several times over to reread. Very, very slow start. And I felt like the language was really trying too hard, especially at the beginning.

Next, the relationships in this book are so fake and unreal it hurts. No one has this level of drama. I felt like every person had beef in some capacity with everyone else there. Or maybe that was just Cat? Maybe Cat was causing beef? I’m honestly not sure, but I can tell you you couldn’t pay me enough to go spend a night in a *very* haunted house with frenemies. This cast of characters all learned that lesson, too. Regardless, I just felt that even if you’re relationship with someone is strained, if they’re truly your “friend”, you aren’t narrating this story like Cat does.

Onto the Japanese words! Now, I don’t want this to sound uncultured, idiotic, or even rude. But, I’m going to say it anyways, as my job is to critique, and I hope you hear me out to the end. This book is literally filled with unnecessary words in Japanese. Yes, I understand it’s based on Japanese folklore! 100%! Some of these words, terms, or figures are extremely necessary to tell the story, and I understand that. But the issue I take with them here is not only their extremely repetitive use, but their lack of explanation (I think the only one I knew straightaway was the tanuki!). I know nothing about Japanese culture or folk tales. This was all new to me, and you’d think with the amount of times Khaw said yokai she might tell me at least once that is. Instead, I read most of this book armed with Google Translate. I have no problem with incorporating other languages and cultures into novels and bestsellers like this one, and no problem parking Google next to my hardcovers. My issue here was that they were so overused and under-explained that it felt like the author was trying to prove a level of knowledge to us, instead of focusing on their importance to the story. Because they really didn’t have any true importance to the story. Like I said at the beginning, this book is getting really hyped in my area. But I don’t think the wider horror audience is the ideal audience for this book, given these problems with it.

Which brings me to my last point: this book is far from horror. Far from truly scary. At no point was I afraid, only mildly confused and kind of annoyed. I would call this book more of a drama with a backdrop of Japanese folklore. The scariest thing about this book is the cover (seriously, that artist is impressive… shoutout to Samuel Araya). Everything that happens within its pages would’ve happened whether they were at this haunted Japanese mansion or at an Airbnb in Alaska. And I just didn’t dig that, especially given what my expectations were going in (see above!).

I’m still giving this two stars. I have no idea why. I guess some part of me must’ve enjoyed it just a little or I wouldn’t have allowed it that extra one, but I can’t put my finger on why I didn’t just give a singular star.

Skip this one, people! I hope I could save you from the hype before you picked this sucker up.

Hope you all have an incredible Thanksgiving with your family and friends. ❤

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