Reviews

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

# of Pages: 326

Time it took me to read: 4 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 46

Rating: 2 out of 5

A scene most of us are familiar with – a small town, mysterious circumstances, a group of young people and a dog unmasking a villain. Thus describes young Peter, Kerri, Andy, Nate, and their dog Sean. Together they solved mysteries throughout the 1970s as the Blyton Summer Detective Club. Until one summer, despite catching the bad guy, the group never reformed and went their separate ways…until now.

Unable to shake the feeling that their last case went unsolved, Andy, now 25, drives around the country gathering up the other members of the Blyton Summer Detective Club to go back and finish things once and for all. First Kerri, working at a dead end job instead of chasing her dreams, and Tim, grandson of Sean, their loyal dog. Then Nate, who has admitted himself to an institution due to struggling with his mental health. That only leaves Peter, who died two years previous and is the only member unable to join their mission…or so they think.

Things in Blyton have changed so much, and yet not at all. Can the Blyton Summer Detective Club solve one last mystery? And if they can, will the personal ghosts that haunt them all finally be able to rest?

Review:

This review is going to have two parts. As you’ve probably surmised by the low star rating, this book wasn’t my favorite. However, I believe in giving at least a partially objective review. And I fully believe there are others out there who would enjoy this book despite my opinion.

Objective Perspective:

This book is very well conceptualized. For every twist at the end, and there were a few, I was able to recognize looking back that Cantero had set it up well in advance. I didn’t feel that there were any plot holes, and it reminded me very much of my favorite Scooby Doo movies growing up, such as Zombie Island and The Witch’s Ghost (I won’t say why here, to avoid spoilers, but if you know those two movies then perhaps you’ll understand). And this book was very clearly trying to be a re-imagining of Scooby Doo, which was ambitious and I’ll say I think Cantero certainly had most of the elements of a good Scooby Doo mystery.

I also appreciated the diversity in the cast. There was a woman of color, who was not a stereotype, and at least one cast member who was LGBTQA+, and they were a main protagonist. There was depth to each of the protagonists, none were simple plot devices.

I appreciated the healthy dose of both science and mysticism in this story. It was well researched, I could tell, from the science to the lore. At least the science sounded very real to a laymen like me, so it’s very possible I could have been duped by the phenomena in this story.

However, objectively, the pacing of this story was off to me. I feel like the build up was 2/3 of the story, and the payoff was only in the last less than one hundred pages. Perhaps that was done purposely to mirror Scooby Doo (where you only learn who the bad guy is at the very end). But at least in Scooby Doo, most of the story is action (chase scenes where the gang tries to capture the bad guy), whereas here I don’t believe the payoff was worth how much buildup there was.

Subjective Perspective:

I’ll start with the problem I had from the first few pages and throughout the whole book. The writing in this book is highly stylized. There are times where the author breaks the fourth wall, and I swear that most of this book is descriptions, descriptions, descriptions. Often times descriptions of the same thing over and over again in different ways. I fully understand that many readers out there would find this style charming and entertaining. I, however, was irritated by it from the get-go. I am seriously not trying to jump down the author’s throat or anything, everyone has their own style, but as a reader I simply did not jive with it.

Next, I didn’t particularly connect with any of the characters. I found myself not finding the will to root for any of them. Despite being fully grown adults in this story, with all of the characters being in their mid-twenties, I found that they read as teenagers, which felt disconcerting for someone who is the age currently that these characters were supposed to be.

I’m going to preface this next bit with saying that I am not a member of the LGBTQA+ community. Saying that, I understand that my perspective may be flawed if not entirely false, so if anyone reads this and disagrees or believes that I’m out of line, please let me know by commenting or messaging me. I would never want to be insensitive.

There is a member of the crew that is described as “always wanting to be one of the boys” growing up. Early on in the book, one of the characters tells this character that they “kinda thought the next time they saw [this character], that they’d be a boy”. This instance is the less egregious one because the character doesn’t seem to be particularly insulted, and the person to which they are speaking hurriedly says they wouldn’t have a problem with that. But the character in question seems to me to be certainly not particularly fem, but certainly never mentions anywhere that she did “wish/believe she was a boy”. Aka this character is not a trans man. But then later on a character talks about having had a sex change procedure back and forth multiple times (I won’t say anything else because I don’t want to spoil, but imagine that this is something that were plausible). This character then looks to the person in question and says “You may want to try it sometime”. Once again implying that this character “should try being a man”.

Once again, I’m not a member of the community, but I’ve known a number of trans folks in my life, and this sort of discourse seems cheap and unnecessary to me. It would be different if the character ever, once, questioned her gender identity, which I didn’t see (if someone who has gone through the experience and sees it differently, I would certainly defer to their experience). Long story short, as someone who is just trying to be the best ally she can be, the whole thing rubbed me the wrong way.

Also this book was set 1990, and while stylistically I appreciate the callback, there were some things, like calling Native Americans “Indians” and the descriptions of the mental facility that one of the characters lives in just seemed…unnecessary for the 90s “vibe” of the book. This book was released in 2017, and I just feel like unless the point of the book is that it is the 90s and we were still startlingly non-progressive (this wasn’t the point I saw the book trying to make), the author didn’t have to go that far. I feel like modern treatment and language of the characters would not have hurt the setting of the story.

Conclusion:

Unlike most of the books that I read that I rank poorly (which are few and far between, I rarely find myself starting and finishing something I don’t enjoy), I had trouble initially trying to lay out exactly the problems I had with this book. I’m still not sure I succeeded particularly well, but the long story short of it is that I didn’t like this book, I wouldn’t particularly recommend it, but I understand why others do like this book and I think for the most part it is fine.

Happy to participate in discourse, if anyone would like to disagree. I’m certainly not perfect and my opinions and perspectives are only my own. I’m not willing to die on my hill if someone wants to argue the pacing in this book is flawless.

If you liked Meddling Kids, try:

Carry on by Rainbow Rowell (for comedy/spoof style of a pop culture icon)

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (for comedy paranormal storyline)

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins (for highly stylized writing done in a way I enjoy)

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater (for highly stylized writing done in a way I enjoy)