Friday, March 22, 2019

Book Review - Edgar Cantero's Meddling Kids

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Published by: Doubleday
Publication Date: July 11th, 2017
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

What if your life hinged on a single night? In 1977 the Blyton Summer Detective Club, a group of kids known locally to the inhabitants of Blyton Hills for foiling those up to no good, solved their final case. After that night the four kids drifted apart but were forever haunted by what happened during their final foray into crime solving. Usually the villain turned out to be someone in a rubber mask, but they weren't too sure about what happened with the fortune hunter they thwarted looking for the famous treasure in the Deboën Mansion. Something otherworldly was going on that night and it has stalked them ever since. The four precocious kids full of potential are long gone. More than a decade later those still alive are living lives of quiet desperation, slinging drinks, fleeing arrest warrants, and trying to forget in mental institutions. But Andy, she of the arrest warrants, is sick of always being on the run. She shows up on Kerri's doorstep and says it's up to them to find out what really happened that night at the Deboën Mansion. None of them can actually have a life without closure. Of course this means breaking Nate out of an asylum in Arhkam, Massachusetts, and hoping he can keep it together.

As they travel cross-county to the sleepy mining town in the Zoinx River Valley in Oregon where they spent every summer solving crimes the ghosts of their pasts haunt them. Nate more than most because the ghost of Peter, their erstwhile leader turned famous movie star who killed himself, is literally his constant companion. Why couldn't his companion be like Kerri's? An excitable Weimaraner would be way better than a ghost! Arriving back in Blyton Hills and holing up in Kerri's old bedroom, despite all the intervening years they feel like they used to; full of righteousness and possibilities. If only this were just a trip down memory lane and not a trip to uncover the darkness that lurks in the Deboën Mansion. Yet they are determined to solve their final case properly. To trek out to the Deboën Mansion on it's deserted island and lay the evil to bed. Only jumping back into their old investigative life isn't as easy as they thought. Knowing that something evil is lurking out there is far more terrifying to adults then to kids who think they are invincible. But they've come this far! What is a journey through abandoned mine shafts and looking into the true face of evil to being forever trapped in one night in 1977?

To me the biggest mystery of 2017 was that this book was wholeheartedly embraced by booksellers and readers everywhere. I don't think the origins of it's popularity could even be solved by the Blyton Summer Detective Club. Because the nostalgia factor just can't cut it when a book is this badly written and is so insensitive to LQBTQIA issues. This book brings nothing new or interesting to the table. The writing and action is repetitive. The characters flat. As for the Big Bad? Lovecraft did it better. So that leaves nostalgia as the only logical reason people picked up this book. Nostalgia is currently playing a huge role in popular culture and media. Just look to the behemoth successes of Stranger Things and the 2017 adaptation of It, which was so popular it (haha) is getting a sequel. But the reason I have chosen these two examples is they got it so right. They bring out all the feels of a kid growing up in the late seventies and early eighties and make it somehow fresh at the same time. Whereas the nonsensical Meddling Kids seems to just be wanting to tap into that cash cow without realizing you either get it right or go home. Edgar Cantero should have gone home.

The nostalgia Meddling Kids is attempting to cash in on is the continued love of all things Scooby-Doo. OK, here's the thing with me, I've spent my entire life worshiping Scooby-Doo. Perhaps in fact this is where my love of mysteries and all things Gothic started because rumor has it that shortly after I started saying "mommy" and "kitty" I started saying "Scooby-Doo." I even had a stuffed animal of Scooby-Doo that was literally bigger than me at the time my parents bought it. I fully believe that The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show/The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries was the best incarnation of Scooby, because Fred and Velma were nixed, and if only Scrappy had met the fate Eddie Izzard suggested in his Dressed to Kill special it would have been perfection. Therefore I can, without a doubt in my mind, say that this isn't an homage to Scooby-Doo, this is just really badly written slash, aka a fanfiction subcategory pairing two male or two female characters together. This book is just Edgar writing prurient scenes of the Daphne and Velma characters for no reason other that to fulfill his own fantasies. Now I don't have a problem with fanfiction or with slash, what I have a problem with is when it's badly done and is sold as a book and is not available in some forum online, I'm looking at you Cassandra Clare. This does a disservice to nostalgia and makes it pornographic.

And for some reason this slash angle has resulted in making Kerri's hair another character. Andy has been in love with Kerri for forever and Kerri by the end of the book is willing to accept the love but not really reciprocate it, but that's an entirely different issue I have with the book. What this results in is that Andy watches the moods of Kerri's hair because it somehow embodies the essence of who Kerri really is. Andy's heightened awareness of Kerri's hair is like some weird spider-sense. I just call it Kerri's stupid ass "living" hair. If it was used once or twice, I wouldn't have had a problem with it, but again and again with the hair! The over the top descriptions of Kerri's hair get to the point where it's like a masturbatory fix for Andy. She can't just watch her hair but has to fetishize Kerri's hair. When I think of all the time wasted in this book that was in desperate need of some forward momentum spent on a character's hair it just enrages me. And what's more, I don't know what to do with this information. Why is it important? Did Edgar have a real thing about Daphne's hair on Scooby-Doo? Or does he just have a hair thing? I seriously am baffled by this choice and the fact no editor went, "What's with the hair Edgar?" But then again I had so many issues with this book if I had been it's editor I would have just thrown in on the trash heap.

Because the problematic crux of this book is that it is transphobic. At first I wasn't sure. Perhaps I was reading into something that wasn't there. Perhaps all the nasty asides about Andy wanting to be a boy was more a sign of the times, the book being set in 1990, and that Edgar figured that Andy being labelled as gay wasn't a mean enough taunt for the bullies to hurl at her. But the more this happened the more I was unnerved by the book. I started to read other reviews and saw that I wasn't the only one thinking this way. In fact, I missed something big right in front of my face. Edgar's first book, The Supernatural Enhancements, had some issues with pedophilia, and from everything I've heard about his newest book, This Body's Not Big Enough for the Both of Us deals with twincest, so I'm guessing it's a trend that his books handle big issues in a tactless manner... But that means it's even more important for the reader to call him out on this! He is a modern writer who has decided to set a book in a less enlightened time and he has a duty to be better. To call out the creeps and say that calling Andy a boy isn't right. But instead he builds it all to a reveal that shows his insensitivity and that for me makes it so that anyone who loves this book in my mind has a bigoted small-mindedness that I don't want to be around. On the surface it might look fine, but look deeper, find the monster in the lake... it's a whole lotta hate.


Newer Post Older Post Home