Review: Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld

When British and Australian author Evie Wyld was growing up, she, like many children, was interested in gruesome stories. But rather than bend back the pages of an R. L. Stein paperback, Wyld became fascinated real-life stories of shark attacks: bloody, horrific tales with graphic photographs.

Wyld turns her childhood obsession into a metaphor in her latest work, Everything is Teeth. Wyld wrote the spare prose and illustrator Joe Sumner lent his considerable talent to the project, resulting in a debut graphic novel about the dark fascinations of youth and how these fears and longings can teach us about the world – and ourselves.  

The novel starts with a young Wyld visiting relatives in Australia. Here sharks are real: family and friends recount theories and memories of shark attacks; Wyld can see them circling in the distance; her brother receives a shark’s jaw for Christmas and drunken guests put their heads through it, cutting their faces.

Back in England, there are no sharks, but there are troubling forces beneath the surface. Her older brother begins to suffer from an unnamed mental illness that threatens to tear the family apart.

And just when it seems Wyld’s fascination with sharks will transform into a powerful metaphor, she leaves the narrative of her brother behind and shifts focus to her father, then her mother, then back to her father again, resulting in disjointed passages that raise questions about the book’s aims and goals. The work becomes more of a meditation on a childhood obsession than a memoir.

Of all the possible narratives, Wyld’s relationship with her father has the most potential, but she shies away from it, like a swimmer keeping a safe distance.

In the end, nothing is truly revealed of Wyld or her relationships. She doesn’t take the risk. It’s a beautiful book, but it needs some teeth.