Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Posted February 12, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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Meddling Kids

Meddling Kids

by Edgar Cantero

Publisher: Doubleday on July 11, 2017
Genre: Ghost Story, Horror, LGBTQ+, Mystery, Necromancers, Paranormal, Zombies
Target Age Group: Adult, New Adult

Rating: ★½

Check out this book on Goodreads

1990. The teen detectives once known as the Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in the Zoinx River Valley in Oregon) are all grown up and haven't seen each other since their fateful, final case in 1977. Andy, the tomboy, is twenty-five and on the run, wanted in at least two states. Kerri, one-time kid genius and budding biologist, is bartending in New York, working on a serious drinking problem. At least she's got Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the team. Nate, the horror nerd, has spent the last thirteen years in and out of mental health institutions, and currently resides in an asylum in Arhkam, Massachusetts. The only friend he still sees is Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star. The problem is, Peter's been dead for years.

The time has come to uncover the source of their nightmares and return to where it all began in 1977. This time, it better not be a man in a mask. The real monsters are waiting.

 

I am so disappointed in this book.

There was never a moment where someone told me it was going to be a masterpiece.  In fact, all the reviews I’ve seen for Meddling Kids are three-stars.  There’s a general “it’s fine, I guess, but not… good?” vibe to the reviews that I told myself I would keep in mind as I read.

And, yes, I did keep it in mind.  But I was also still excited to read this book, despite myself, and now I’m just disappointed.

Meddling Kids has such a fun idea.  It’s essentially the Scooby Doo gang all grown up.  In some ways, Meddling Kids feels like it wanted to be a love story to teen detective genre with all the proper nods to Scooby and the Gang.  I love movies that do this, creating a fun story with nods to enduring pop culture icons.  If you’ve ever seen the old Scooby Doo, there are a lot of problematic moments, but the idea of a group of kids and their dog unmasking corrupt business owners, rich guys, and politicians is enduring and fun.  I haven’t seen a book for teens or adults try to embrace this quirky tale and I was just delighted when he book was announced.  How much fun will this be, am I right?

I was wrong.

Okay.

Issues with Meddling Kids.

First of all, I was done with this book at 38%.  They got to the island, they unmasked the monster, and it felt like a full story.  Even a mostly satisfying story.  Then I checked my audiobook and saw it was 38% and I just couldn’t imagine how there was another 62% of story to go.  So it dragged, and had weird pacing spikes, and from that moment forward felt a bit like the book that wouldn’t end.  The overall story was fine.  The twists were not that exciting or surprising, and really, I wasn’t satisfied at the end.  I was far more satisfied with the containment of the story as a whole back at 38%.  There are moments that should have been exciting but instead were filled with arguing and awkward interactions.  I listened to the end, waiting for something more… but it didn’t come.  They explored a mansion and a mine shaft and dissected a supernatural creature and somehow… none of that was as exciting as it should have been.

Next, the characters.  I stopped early on trying to go, “Oh, that’s Daphne!  That’s Fred.”  The only character I’ve got down is Carrie, who was Velma with Daphne’s looks.  The characters are forgettable, and in writing them, Edgar Cantero seemed to want to throw in ALL THE REP, but he doesn’t do it particularly well?  I don’t know.  It came off as very abrasive to me and I was turned off by his choices.  He’s got Carrie, who breaks down into anxious sobs every time something happens until she remembers she’s smart and can pick herself back up.  Nate, who institutionalized himself, makes repeated references to being crazy and the looney bin, etc. and so forth, to the point where the damaging language feels like repeated attacks on those who genuinely suffer poor mental heath.  OH!  And they pull out a straitjacket to help him escape.  I’ve detailed all this my review of Splintered, but I have serious issues with poor representation of mental heath institutions.  This book takes place in the early 90s, and the rep here is inexcusable.

But it’s Andy who bothers me the most.

Multiple characters, including her best friend, suggest that Andy should go through gender reassignment surgery because she is tomboyish and always wants to do what the boys do.  The first time it happened, I was shocked.  Then it happened again.  In what world is that sort of assumption and verbal suggestion okay?!  Additionally, Andy is a self-proclaimed lesbian and throughout the book she’s referred to as butch and various other blind, harmful stereotypes.  She was in the army.  She picks fights.  She escaped from prison.  There are two moments of acknowledgement of Andy’s gender (her chosen gender, not the ones that others in the book think she should have, because WTF) – at one point we learn the placement of her breasts; at another point, her used tampon materializes.  So most of our interactions with Andy are spent trying to convince her to become male, and the rest discusses her sexuality.  I’m not in either of these demographics, but I was so disgusted by the treatment that I just… I would recommend skipping this book for this treatment alone.

I tried to contain all that rage in one paragraph.  It really bothered me.

The writing itself is a little weird.  There was a lot of dialogue, and the story seemed to switch between a novel format and a script format.  Tim, the dog, is treated like a character and the narrator is in his head, and that was fine, but also?  Carrie’s hair was anthropomorphized and it was weird.  Repeatedly it is given a personality and emotions and it was… it was weird for me.  The story itself didn’t feel creative or original.  The atmosphere – which should be important in a supernatural horror – is given lesser precedence than banter and emotions. There are whole scenes and elements that could have been cut to tighten the story.  Problematic elements could have easily been cut.  The writing style was chaotic enough that even if I didn’t have other problems with the novel, I don’t think I’d pick up another of Cantero’s books.

All in all, I can’t in good conscience recommend this book.  The concept of a detective club all grown up was interesting, but the execution was unrealistic, the story attached was unimpressive, and the characters were disappointing.  I’d like to see someone else take the idea of the Scooby Gang and bring their silhouettes to life as a quirky one-off – Meddling Kids did not fulfill hopes and expectations.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★
Plot: ★★ 1/2
Characters:
Writing: ★★
Pacing: ★ 1/2
Narrator: ★★
Personal Enjoyment:

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Do you enjoy novelty stories like this?  I’d really like to see more well-done pop-culture retellings in the books world, and I am enough of a sucker that if I see one, I’ll probably add it to my TBR.  What ones would you like to see?  Let me know in the comments!

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