Review: Shark Teeth by Sherri Winston

Shark Teeth by Sherri Winston cover shows a girl with curly hair wearing jeans and a hoodie with her hands in her pockets. A line drawing of upper and lower rows of shark's teeth is superimposed over the image.

Shark Teeth
Sherri Winston
Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Published January 16, 2024

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Shark Teeth

From National Book Award longlisted author Sherri Winston comes an important middle grade novel about a girl’s tumultuous journey to keep her family together, even when she’s falling apart.

Sharkita “Kita” Hayes is always waiting.
Waiting for her mama to mess up.
Waiting for social services to be called again.
Waiting for her and her siblings to be separated.
Waiting for her worst fear to come true.

But Mama promises things are different now. She’s got a good job, she’s stopped drinking, stopped going out every night-it’s almost enough to make Kita believe her this time. But even as Kita’s life is going good, she can’t shake the feeling that everything could go up in flames at any moment. When her assistant principal and trusted dance coach starts asking questions about her home life, Kita is more determined than ever to keep up appearances and make sure her family stays together-even if it means falling apart herself.

As the threat of her family being separated again circles like a shark in the water, the pressure starts to get to Kita. But could it be that Kita’s worst fear is actually the best thing that could happen to her family . . . and to her?

Shark Teeth on Goodreads

My Review

Writing about kids in foster care is such an important thing and such a complex thing to do. Here, I felt like the author tackled these topics with care and gentleness without romanticizing or glossing over the messiness and trauma these experiences bring with them.

As I read each scene relating Kita’s life at home, it was so easy to feel the pressure her mom placed on her and the weight of her siblings’ needs. She seemed caught in the middle in so many ways.

I love that the book shows how her involvement in a baton twirling group provided a safe place for her to be a kid and to forge her own supportive community around her. I remember having friends with painful or complicated lives at home who had similar experiences with school programs. I loved seeing that celebrated in this book.

There were a couple of moments in which the story dealt with Kita’s anxiety that I wished had progressed more slowly. For the most part, I think the author described Kita’s experiences with anxiety, panic attacks, and sleep paralysis really well. I pieced some things together from the symptoms she described, but there were a couple of points when it felt like the story rushed through Kita processing new information about what she experienced.

So much of the story pulled me straight into Kita’s mind and heart, though. I felt her protectiveness toward her younger siblings. Kita’s desperation for her mom’s love and approval, combined with her frustration and anger toward her, made so much sense. I rooted for Kita from the first page to the last.

All in all, SHARK TEETH is a book I’d easily recommend. It’s an incredibly moving story with unforgettable characters.

Shark Teeth on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Kita and her family are Black, as are some of the other minor characters.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
A boy kisses Kita on the cheek. She wonders about what it’d be like to have a boyfriend.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Kita’s mom says cutting things to her sometimes. Kita gets injured while trying to take care of her younger siblings. Her brother pushes her and accidentally hits her in the nose with his head. A child starts a fire.

Drug Content
Kita and her siblings worry that her mother, who is an alcoholic, will start drinking alcohol again. In one scene, Kita sees her mom drinking alcoholic drinks with her friends. In another, her mom is hung over and trying to hide it.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of SHARK TEETH in exchange for my honest review.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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