Meddling KidsMeddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

”It was a guy in a costume, Nate. Same as always.”

but what if, one time, it wasn’t?

this book is a pure romp, but in order to enjoy it, you need to be willing to get on board with cantero’s style and authorial choices, which can be jarring if you try to fight ‘em. it starts out in second-person before switching to the third-person POVs of a number of characters, and there are many instances of the author breaking the fourth wall, shifts to screenplay-format complete with stage directions, metafictional asides eliding certain conventional expectations like descriptions or filler-moments, the anthropomorphism of one character’s hair, unusual and specific similes: Bruises sprawled throughout his slender chest and arms like industrial developments in nineteenth-century Britain., and neologisms of the most arresting kind:

An Endeish Nothing had erased the lake and the firs and the sky.

The new hill two blocks away from there howlretched, for lack of a real word.

me, i love that stuff, but it definitely pulls the reader out of the story, so some will balk.

apart from that dealbreaker-for-some, it’s a wonderfully overloaded buffet – sad and funny with elements of horror and adventure and many pop culture references, and like The Supernatural Enhancements proved, this guy writes some excellent dog-characters.

I rescued the penguin!

i clicked ‘gimmie, netgalley!’ on this because i loved The Supernatural Enhancements, but i was wary of the title and synopsis, not only for the lovecraft mention (sorry, l-craft!), but also because i have no personal connection to scooby-doo*; it just wasn’t something i watched growing up, so i was relieved to discover this isn’t his scooby fanfic – there are some allusive echoes, but mostly just details that are commonly-known if you are a citizen of this world.

these characters all have different names and attributes, including those of race and breed – scooby is a weimaraner named tim and velma-andy is an unambiguously lesbian latina.

in this version of the scoobyverse, once upon a time, there were four teenagers: kerri and her cousin nate, peter, andrea andy, and kerri’s dog sean, who met every summer in the small mining town of blyton hills, oregon, where they were collectively known as the blyton summer detective club and became notorious, if not popular, for solving many cartoonish crimes perpetrated by bumbling masked men teen-thwarted in many cartoonishly-named ways like the “reverse werewolf trap,” involving fishing nets and serving carts and the like. their last investigation – the sleepy lake monster – took place in 1977, culminating in the unmasking of thomas x. wickley, who was sentenced to thirteen years in prison for the crimes of fraud, attempted burglary, kidnapping and child endangerment. but some weird shit went down during that case, unexplained loose ends were willfully ignored, and the fallout from the experience scattered the group into their separate damaged trajectories, never to reunite.

kerri was the brains of the group whose early promise withered and despite a biology degree, is bartending, fending off dive bar creeps and living in a crummy apartment with sean’s descendent tim, alcohol, and night terrors. andy wandered around, odd-jobbing and briefly joining the air force before getting herself into the kind of trouble you need to break out of jail to overcome, and she’s been nursing her long-held rage and an equally long-held infatuation with kerri for all these thirteen years. peter became a teenage film star heartthrob before suiciding on pills, and nate is a self-committed resident of arkham asylum, where he immerses himself in dark fantasy pulp novels and is visited by peter’s ghost on a regular basis.

andy decides enough is enough, and gets the band back together for a return to the much-diminished blyton hills and the creepy deboën mansion to get to the bottom of all the eeriness they never quite solved and discover the roots of why they’re all so broken.

so now, twenty-five, with ample life experience, drivers licenses, and no curfew, will they be able to put this case to rest once and for all?

spoiler alert – yes, but it is not going to be tidy at all.

but at least they’ve learned one thing from those earlier cases. never ever listen to peter’s ill-fated suggestions:

i had a great time with this one. it’s very tongue-in-cheek and it revives a lot of stock cartoon imagery like escaping via mining cart, but with much more intense foes and consequences.

all manner of horrors are contained herein:

scary houses:

lake monsters:

other assorted monsters:

boats (which are not a ‘horror,’ but i found a GIF, so ppbblltt):

arcane books:

and g-g-g-g-ghosts:

it’s a satirical caper-filled ride, but there are some sobering bits in between all the mayhem when their own masks drop. just enough for flavor.

i have one little gripe in the category of erroneous facts, and i only mention it because this is like the third time i’ve come across it in recent reads, and this book makes the mistake several times, so for the record: there were zero witches burned in salem. hanged, yes, or smooshed between stones, but never burned. burning accused witches, like the metric system, is a european thing that never caught on in salem.

to offset that gripe, allow me to compliment the complementary covers of cantero’s books:

i really dig the similarities and contrasts both, and was never a fan of the paperback cover of s.e.:

and one more little thing – this made me smile:

because this book was selected as a discover title on my watch, back when i was a discover-reader, and me and greg both fought for its inclusion. we didn’t always win, and greg had some heavy losses after i got laid off and was no longer eligible for discovering and helping to second his excellent tastes, but that one was some good teamwork for sure.

this one is not as amazing, but it’s a very solid second book.

* i didn’t even know its origin story, which greg kindly mansplained to me and which, when i looked into for the writing of this review, turned out to be a friggin’ urban legend! thanks, greg!

read my reviews on goodreads

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