Meddling Kids – A Novel {Review}

Meddling Kids - A Novel {Review}

Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids: A Novel (2017) really wants you to think about Scooby-Doo. Like the famous TV series, the book is about a group of teens and their dog who solve improbably complicated paranormal mysteries by uncovering the human posing as a ghost or monster or whatever.

Unlike the show, though, this book takes you two decades past the adolescent sleuths’ prime, to when the young adults are disillusioned, mentally ill, or dead. Intermittently amusing, the book tends toward the overwritten and coasts a little too much on the audiences’ fond Saturday morning memories.

Meddling Kids imagines a world where the analogous characters to Fred, Velma, Daphne, and Shaggy haven’t done so well. The faux-Fred is dead. Not-Shaggy is in an asylum in Lovecraft’s Arkham, Mass., plagued by visions of faux-Fred, while the funhouse mirror versions of Velma and Daphne are coming to grips with their homosexuality and their failed careers.

After one of the team realizes that their most famous unmasking was all a setup, the old gang gets back together to return to their teen stomping grounds in the hopes of finding out what really happened, and what left them traumatized for decades.

The positive elements of the book revolve around the vicarious pleasure of reliving childhood through a different lens. The author’s sly references to Scooby-Doo, from the elaborate traps used to capture villains to the rushing river Zoinx, create smirks and smiles of knowing recognition, particularly when these are undercut by reimagining the old cartoon’s setup in the light of adult responsibilities and anxieties. Overall, this element of the book is both its strongest selling point and the source of the most impressing and interesting passage in it.

Even the dog is a fairly compelling character. When the gang gets together to reinvestigate their greatest case, there is an unmistakable echo of recent Scooby-Doo adventures, with which the author seems to be in conversation.

However, their investigation descends from a Scooby-Doo episode to a story of Lovecraftian horror, but here Cantero’s artistry fails him. Writing in English instead of his native Spanish, he never entirely captures either the cartoon flatness of Scooby-Doo, nor the opaque grandiosity of Lovecraft. Instead, the book tends toward unusual and showy stylistic flourishes, combined with flat dialogue and a plot that is often ludicrous without actually being funny.

The weirdest tic in the author’s repertoire is his tendency to switch from presenting dialogue as quotations within the text to presenting it as dialogue in script form. This is highly distracting, especially since there is no particular reason for the change in format.

The Lovecraftian elements of the story don’t work nearly as well here as they do in the 2010 Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated series, which not only had an unspeakable cosmic entity but also featured a character based on H. P. Lovecraft. In this book, the Lovecraftian elements sit uneasily alongside the cartoonish elements, which robs both parts of the book of their power.

When Lovecraftian creatures are stripped of their cosmic horror, they just become weirdly shaped monsters. When the cartoonish nature of Scooby-Doo is forced to become too serious, it just makes the characters seem derivative without being transformative.

Overall, Meddling Kids is an interesting experiment that has quite a few pleasures despite some of the questionable authorial choices. The story is fun and moves at a brisk pace, and when Cantero satirizes the cartoon, his book can really click. It’s recommended for fans of Scooby-Doo and the horror genre, but those who aren’t up on the adventures of Mystery Incorporated probably would be better served by a different book.

Jason C is an author of this book review. He has been writing short essays, complex research papers and book reports since 2008. Jason is fond of helping college students in academic writing. Currently he is hired as an essay expert by writing company.

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