Much of Evie Wyld's fiction has an unmistakeable feeling of menace as if there is something dangerous lurking unseen in the background just out of sight. This is felt most intensely in her novel “All the Birds, Singing” where someone or something unknown is savagely killing the sheep on a woman’s farm. In this graphic memoir she writes of her family life, growing up in Australia and her enduring fascination with sharks. Using stark pared-down language Wyld creates a mood where reality intersects with mounting feelings of fear, particularly a fear of death. However, sharks are not the monster enemy. They are gradually shown to be more the victims – killed by humans out of fear. They are a presence in the girl's imagination as comforting in their constant attendance as they are horrifying. The exquisite, expressive and haunting drawings imaginatively bring the story to life. Humans are cartoonish figures while images of the sharks or other sea inhabitants are drawn in a hyper-realistic way.

“Everything is Teeth” refers to the surface of a shark's skin which can be like sandpaper so swimmers who simply rub up against a shark feel their skin being cut as if by teeth. The title is given an even more layered complex meaning as the story progresses. When the girl eventually re-enters the water after receiving a jellyfish wound “The salt chews on my stings.” There is a sharp distinction created between the areas of habitation above the water and below. When this line is crossed it can result in injury or death. The savage way in which humans are shown to survive or fight against the threat we face when crossing this boundary between land and sea indicates how we are hampered by fear. This is echoed in relationships between the family members and the girl’s vivid imagination about how they might die. There are important messages here about learning to live with fear as well as maintaining respect for animals and each other.

The atmosphere created by the drawings and poignant text is utterly enthralling. There's an extraordinary drawing of her brother swimming where the water is swirling and the current looks like a mixture of eyes and faces. Oftentimes sharks linger in the background even when she’s on land as if they constantly circle the girl wherever she goes. While snuggled up on the sofa reading this book I felt my toes curl. I was reminded of a great short story in Jackie Kay’s collection “Why Don’t You Stop Talking” called ‘Shark! Shark!’ where a man nearing retirement has a growing fear of sharks despite living inland. Sharks make an easy metaphor for our fear of death, but the co-authors of this graphic memoir transform this into something more subtle and complex. This is a quick read, but it will linger with you.

AuthorEric Karl Anderson