Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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, the 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 institutions, and currently resides in an asylum in Arkham, Massachusetts. The only friend he still sees is Peter, the handsome jock turned movie stars. 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.
Arghhh! This book! Never have I loved a story so much, yet at the same time, been left so frustrated. Meddling Kids is a brilliant combination of Scooby Doo and H. P. Hovercraft. It’s funny, creepy and poignant, and yet there were times that it slid completely off the rails for me.
The problem I ran into was the writing style. It was all over the place. The author switches continuously between a screenplay format, and that of a traditional novel. It was incredibly jarring, and I have no idea why Edgar Cantero and his editor thought this was a good idea. There were even stage directions for some unknown reason. Also, the author invents his own words like triviad, innerstruggled, and tragichuckled. I guess this was supposed to be witty, but instead it left me supremely irritated.
What kept me reading instead of figuratively tossing this out the window, was the ingenuity of the plot and my love for the characters. Andy/Thelma, Kerri/Daphne, Nate/Shaggy, ghost Peter/Fred, and Tim/Scooby are contemporary versions of the original Scooby gang. While in the original Hanna-Barbera cartoon, the villain always turned out to be flesh and blood, here, the members of the Blyton Hills Summer Detective Club have been haunted for years over what they witnessed during their last case. I loved each and every one of them, especially Tim, who like Scooby Doo, plays a central role in getting to the bottom of things.
The plot itself contains many twists and turns, and was thoroughly enjoyable, which is kept me turning the pages right up until the end. It’s an homage to not only Scooby Doo, but other nostalgic teen detective stories as well. Blyton Hills, is named obviously for Enid Blyton, author of the Famous Five series, and it even references Nancy Drew. I have no idea how or why Cantero dreamed up the winning idea of Scooby Doo meets Lovecraft, but it was brilliant!
Because of the writing style, I went back and forth over what to rate Meddling Kids, before I finally decided on my 3 1/2 Stars. If I was going to break it down, I’d give the plot and characters 5 Stars, and the writing format 2 stars. Despite my issues with it, this is still a book I highly recommend. Underneath the suspense, horror, and quirkiness, is also a poignant coming-of-age story, that takes an emotional look at overcoming your demons (both literal and figurative).