Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Scooby-Doo vs. Cthulhu? Ruh-roh! Better grab that stash of Scooby Snacks and start reading!
Edgar Cantero's Meddling Kids presents an intriguing concept: what if grown-up versions of the Scooby-Doo super-sleuths had to reunite and battle H.P. Lovecraft's menagerie of monsters?
Cue the theme song: "Cthulhu-voodoo-doo, where are you?"
With Cantero's sometimes-clever twist on Scooby-Doo, the "Mystery Incorporated" gang of amateur sleuths grow up and grow apart, but must reconvene years after disbanding to solve a truly supernatural case. And it's just as crazy as you might expect. Although the novel doesn't always live up to the promise of its premise, Meddling Kids showcases Cantero's deep reverence for pop culture and his self-aware perspective as an irreverent storyteller. How can an author be reverent and irreverent at the same time? It's quite a balancing act, but Cantero gives it his best shot. Easter eggs abound in this fun, frivolous celebration of nostalgia, with Cantero employing a wide variety of literary tricks and tactics to entertain his readers. Although Meddling Kids has the potential to go down in flames like the foiled plans of a rubber-mask-wearing villain, Cantero's witty twist on the tried-and-true tropes of Scooby-Doo works... most of the time.
In Cantero's novel, we have a cast of characters that (mostly) match their Hanna-Barbera counterparts. We have Peter (an arrogant incarnation of Fred Jones), Kerri (a nerdier version of Daphne Blake), Andy (a butch Velma Dinkley), Nate (a literally haunted Shaggy Rogers), and Tim the Weimaraner (the avatar for everyone's favorite crime-solving Great Dane). The Mystery Machine gets a makeover, replaced with a Chevrolet Vega - a vehicle that bears no small resemblance to the Winchester Brothers' 1967 Chevy Impala. Even "Red Herring" (that bullyish antagonist from A Pup Named Scooby-Doo) gets the avatar treatment with the "Joey" character. My favorite allusion? The fictional Blyton Hills is adjacent to the Zoinx River. Zoinks! Clearly, Cantero embraces the tongue-in-cheek qualities of his story - and throws in everything but the kitchen sink.
As a whole, though, Meddling Kids is an uneven exercise in what-if storytelling. The novel begins with a slam-bang start and concludes with a potent powder keg of plot twists; along the way, however, the reader encounters hit-or-miss slumps in the narrative. At times, it does feel like well-crafted fan fiction:
*A lesbian Velma pining after Daphne? Check.
*A Scooby-Doo adventure with real supernatural creatures, instead of just old men in rubber masks? Check.
*Shaggy living in a lunatic asylum? Check.
Despite its best moments, however, Meddling Kids is more a middling novel - hence this reviewer only awarding the novel three (and a half) stars. That's not to say that Cantero's novel is a waste of time. Part of the allure (for me at least) in reading Meddling Kids is the exploration of "has-been" characters - something I also wrote about in Incomplete and A Different Slant of Light. Sure, it's exciting to revel in the exploits of famous characters... but what about after the spotlight fades? That plot point is one of the most compelling aspects for me. Unfortunately, Cantero sometimes sacrifices these earnest moments for pithy one-liners and trying-too-hard-to-be-clever descriptions.
Though Meddling Kids doesn't always deliver on its "Scooby-Doo meets H.P. Lovecraft" promise, it's still a fun, engaging read for sentimental fans of Saturday-morning cartoons. In Cantero's tribute, Scooby-Doo is elevated to the canonical realm of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. It's just a shame that the goofy genre writer who tackles this novel can't completely deliver the goods. Still, though, Cantero enjoyably explores some quirky territory with the adventurous spirit of teenage detectives. While there are always red herrings lurking around every corner in Scooby-Doo, the biggest surprise here is that Meddling Kids is as enjoyable as it is. Jinkies!
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Mild-mannered librarian by day… and a mild-mannered rock & roller by night.