Book Review: Meddling Kids
Cantero, Edgar. Meddling Kids: A Novel. Blumhouse Books/Anchor Books. 2018.
During my last visit to Changing Hands Bookstore, Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids called out to me. The cover was captivating—bright neon colors on a stark black background with the silhouette of four kids and a dog. I was also intrigued by the title, an obvious callback to the cartoon Scooby-Doo. A short recommendation from an employee appeared beneath the book. I was barely home before I dived in.
Mysteries and crimes in the tiny town of Blyton Hills do not go unsolved long thanks to the efforts of the Blyton Hills Summer Detective Club. Composed of four teenagers—leader Peter, intelligent Kerri, tough Andy, and dreamy Nate—along with a smart dog, the BHSDC has wrapped up a number of cases, all predictably ending with a sneaky adult in a costume or mask. Their last case is perhaps their most famous one: the apprehension of a man named Wickley in the creepy Deboen Mansion. The BHSDC even appeared on the front page of the local paper after solving the crime.
However, the teenagers weren’t entirely truthful about what they saw in Deboen Mansion. As adults, the past continues to haunt them. After Peter’s suicide, Andy tracks down Kerri and Nate, and together they face the hard truth—Wickley wasn’t the culprit, and something darker was afoot in the mansion that night. The three of them and a new dog, Tim, make the journey back to Blyton Hills to bring the correct perpetrator to justice. But will Blyton Hills be the same sleepy place it was in their youth? Will the three adults solve the crime that destroyed their lives?
The best part of Meddling Kids is Cantero’s hilarious writing style. His frequent references to pop culture will delight most readers. There is a Zoinx River, for example, and Nate is a patient at the Arkham Asylum. Cantero also frequently breaks the fourth wall—talking about the gang as “characters”, referencing his own chapters, paragraphs, etc. I’ve also never read such colorful similes and metaphors. A voice, for instance, is said to sing like a “Rage Against the Machine chorus”.
Although I was continually delighted by Cantero’s voice, I found my interest in the plot of Meddling Kids waning as the book wore on. Most of the action felt campy, a move that was possibly intentional but made it difficult to visualize. I also feel as though I didn’t get to know any of the characters well. The three main characters felt particularly flat. A blurb on the book’s cover describes it as a “beach read”, and I would have to agree.
Overall, if you’re feeling nostalgic, you should check out Meddling Kids. It’s a refreshing, adult take on the cartoon tropes of our youth.