My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Bookshelves: punk, spoof, homage, as-seen-on-tv, fanfic, mystery, horror, dark humor, lgbtq-inclusion, supernatural, paranormal, haunted house, love-the-cover
First–don’t get me wrong. I didn’t hate this book. I mostly enjoyed it. It’s just that I was expecting to love it as much as I loved The Supernatural Enhancements, which I absolutely adored, and I didn’t listen to the part of me that knew TSE was going to be one amazingly tough act to follow, and that cynical part of me was right, and now the non-listening part of me is annoyed at the cynical part of me, which is being all snarky and I-told-you-so-ish. But that doesn’t make Meddling Kids a bad book at all. It’s rather good. I would probably rate it higher if TSE hadn’t been so freakishly stupendous even though I know that’s not fair, like the younger sibling being held to the standards set by the superstar older sibling, suffering through school with constant comments like, “But your sister was so good in math,” “But your sister was a cheerleader,” “But your sister’s prom date had his own Camaro,” “But your sister never got suspended for smoking in the bathroom,” until it finally starts smoking weed and intentionally hiding its own superstarness out of spite.
This is a fun plot, the cast of Scooby Doo resurrected as Andy (fka Velma, lesbian and Hispanic and wanted in two states), Kerri (fka Daphne, with her brilliantly alive orange hair, which is almost another character in the book), Nate (fka Shaggy, a horror aficionado in and out of mental institutions) and Peter (fka Fred, dead, present as a ghost only Nate can see and hear, and responsible for at least two of Nate’s psychotropic medications). Scooby is here too, as Tim,* grandson of the original mystery-solving dog Sean,*** a Weimaraner instead of a Great Dane. The kids return to the scene of their last mystery, the one that left them all fucked up in the head, for closure and healing, and learn that no, it is not always a human villain in a costume.
It’s been noted that this book is an amalgam of homages, most notably to Scooby Doo and to H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon and the mythos of Cthulhu, but there are nods to Stephen King’s It (my least favorite of King’s books and no, I will not be seeing the movie, I have feared and loathed clowns since I was little), Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, some of the flavor of David Wong’s John Dies at the End, and no doubt others I missed.
Other reviewers have noted Cantero’s penchant for endless synonyms for “said” that grow annoying. I’ll grant him the fun of playing with the English language, which is not his mother tongue and which he still use more correctly than a lot of American college grads running around today, but I was growing weary of people who always half-phrased, umpired, intervened, polled, moaned, urgently suggested, appended, challenged, admitted, pop-quizzed, second-guessed, and so on, pretty much anything but simply saying something. Heads up, Edgar: You do not need fancy synonyms for “said” with dialogue as excellent as yours.
His descriptive powers are as evocative and socks-off-blowing as ever. After a window’s light is blocked: The colors in the room went oh and became very sad. A motel slept in silence, all the guests probably busy counting stolen money or chopping up corpses in the bathtub. A dog that tail-nods. She squiggled her feet into her sneakers. Fun portmanteaus. I recently read an article Cantero wrote wherein he explained that in his head, if English writing can have a crash-landing, then it should also be able to have a kaboom-landing, and I don’t disagree.
There are a few sharp pokes at American society: “Never cry about a gun. Sadly it’s one of the easiest things to replace in this county.” Ouch. We deserve that.
Perhaps my favorite part: The meddling kids get to escape in a mine cart in pure cartoon style. The cart flew out of the adit mouth, far over the debris slope at the end, hurling the passengers out to free-fall ouching and whoaing and F-word-yelling all the way into the Zoinx River. Yes!
Perhaps my least favorite part: Velma/Andy did not say “jinkies.” Not even once. Sad face.
And just as big as everything else – the cover. This cover! Every time I pulled the book out on the metro or in the break room, I flashed it around a little: Look what I’m reading. Feast your eyes, and know your reading material cannot possibly be cooler than mine. Don’t you wish you were reading this gloriously groovy bit of literary amazingness too? Yes, you do, you know you do. I might never have discovered Edgar Cantero if I hadn’t fallen in love with the cover of The Supernatural Enhancements. (His Catalan covers don’t do as much for me, which is just as well since I can’t read Catalan.)
Anyway, despite the rather lackluster and previously explained three stars, I do recommend the book. I really recommend The Supernatural Enhancements, which I reviewed here.
*I don’t really care for this trend of giving people names to dogs, especially when they’re all the same. Much like every kid I meet these days is named Jayden or Brylee, it seems every dog I meet these days is named Sophie or Lilly.**
**My dog does happen to be named Lilly, but I didn’t pick it; her AKC name is Leina’s Lilly Moose and it was written in stone by the time I got her at a year old. Besides, I call her FatDog. Perhaps I should start calling her Moose. She would probably like it. She likes everything.
***Now I realize that the dog named Tim is a nod to the Famous Five that I missed, as in their dog Timmy. But my * mini-rant about people names for dogs stands, because although Sean is one of my favorite names in the world, being the name of one of my kids, I still generally think people names for dogs sound silly. Unless Sean for the dog is another homage I missed, which is entirely possible.
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