Everything Is Everything in Everything Is Teeth

Evie Wyld explores obsession in her graphic memoir, Everything Is Teeth

British novelist Evie Wyld is a rising star in the literary world. In 2010, The Daily Telegraph recognized Wyld as one of the twenty best British authors under the age of 40, and in 2013, Granta included Wyld on its list of the Best of Young British Novelists. To American readers, she is perhaps best known for her acclaimed 2014 novel, All the Birds, Singing, about a lonely farmer living on a British island. Now, she forges new ground in her most recent book, a graphic memoir titled Everything is Teeth.

Everything is Teeth is strange, but its uniqueness is one of the memoir’s greatest assets. This is a book that isn’t afraid to be what it is, which is a meditation on childhood obsession and anxiety.

The story begins with Wyld as a six-year-old girl recalling her family vacations to Australia. Wyld recounts stories her uncle would tell her about the nearby shark-infested waters. He warned her of their dangers and told her, “As a kid the safest thing to do when a shark comes is to float, pretend to be dead.” These are words that her childhood will never shake.

Wyld’s interest in sharks increases after her brother receives a shark’s jaw for a Christmas gift. When she is alone, she visits the fossilized mouth while wearing a pair of boxing gloves and rubs the impressively sharp teeth. She only becomes more curious in the underwater predator. She finds a book about famed shark-attack survivor Rodney Fox, and Wyld falls “in love.” But, in her newfound love, she also uncovers a deep fear that will paralyze her youth.

While bathing, she watches the bubbles, hoping not to spot a shark in the bathtub. She fears flying because the plane might crash into the shark-plagued ocean below. Sharks and the anxiety they bring become a very real part of her world:

“It’s important to be on the bed or sofa — you can’t have your legs dangling like chum. It’s too easy to imagine the sofa is a raft.”

“I make up stories about myself and my schoolmates getting attacked by sharks.”

Wyld’s obsession isn’t always a bad thing, though, as she demonstrates in a handful of brief sections dealing with her brother. At school, he’s bullied badly, and her stories about sharks are his comfort. “Talk to me, my head’s gone strange,” he requests. When Wyld ventures into tales not related to sharks, he tells her to “stick to shark stories.”

So much of Everything is Teeth relies on the physicality of the shark, but the shark functions on a metaphorical level just as much. The shark is a predator, and Wyld fears all of the dominant forces around her. She fears the bullies who mistreat her brother. She fears the adult world that is approaching. She fears the otherness that her father possesses in his manners of behavior and ways of dress.

Wyld writes in such a lyrical prose that oftentimes Everything is Teeth has a poetic feeling to it. Joe Sumner’s gorgeous illustrations add a nice layer of beauty to the already fragile story. He employs a delicate, (mostly) monochromatic color scheme for much of the book; however, when intensity builds and the text explodes, he incorporates vibrant reds and photorealistic elements. Sumner’s additions create a rather magical landscape — one that’s easy to get lost inside.

Everything is Teeth is a short graphic memoir, but it packs the emotional punch of something twice its size. For readers craving something a little quirky, go ahead and take a bite out of Evie Wyld and Joe Sumner’s collaborative effort.

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