Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Meddling Kids // a darker, more adult and twisted version of Scooby-Doo

Meddling Kids is a book totally outside of my comfort zone, and a completely unexpected new love. It took me some time to get into, but once I did I was so hooked that I didn't want to stop.

The book centres on a disbanded group of once-teenage-detectives, now messed-up twenty-somethings, who reunite in order to reopen an old case. The case was the last time the kids saw each other, and although they seemingly caught the culprit, the events that occurred on that night in 1977 left them damaged.

The reunited Blyton Summer Detective Club consists of five members. There is Andy, the badass leader of the group with military training, who is now on the run. She is utterly in love with Kerri, the lively red-haired biologist who now has a major drinking problem. They're joined by her cousin Nate, who has an interest in the fantastical and has spent the last year in a mental health institution. He's the only one who still sees Peter, who was once the popular-kid-turned-movie-star, and is now dead. And of course, there is their mascot, Tim, the great grandson of the dog that was part of the team 13 years prior.  Like with many aspects of the book, the characters are difficult to connect to at first, but about a quarter of the way in I became obsessed with them and their mystery.

When I was approved of my request for Meddling Kids by Netgalley, my first thought was that I'd made a huge mistake. I can't deal with horror. At all. But with the description claiming it was great for fans of Welcome to Nightvale (which is a podcast that dips into horror at a level I can tolerate), and the knowledge that this book was essentially an adaptation of Scooby-Doo, I was too curious not to read it.

Thankfully the blend of horror and mystery ended up working really well for me. I don't know if my tolerance for the dark aspects of Meddling Kids makes it a good horror novel or not, because I can't deal with things that get too creepy. But I can say that I seriously enjoyed the story and it's balance between scary and funny so much more than I expected, and loved every second of it.

Something that I also surprisingly enjoyed was the author's unconventional writing. There were parts of the story that dipped into screenplay format, and others italicised like they were separate from the story in order to introduce the main characters. Cantero even made up some words like 'tragichuckled', 'ruinscape' and 'microwindow' which sound weird but just made sense to me in the context. Plus some of the fight scenes had a couple of lines thrown in that made them sound like characters in video games. I imagine the unconventional writing won't work for everyone, but I found it a lot of fun.

Sadly there were a couple of aspects of the book that really bothered me. At around the 10% mark there was a scene that read as incredibly non-consensual. It ended up being part of a nightmare, but still it was very uncomfortable to read. There was also a couple of instances around that 10% marker where the language felt very othering towards people with mental illness and those who are gender nonconforming. I know the book is set 1990, but I think a sensitivity reader was needed. I did have an advanced readers copy and so it's possible those scenes are not in the final version of the book, but they did lower my overall opinion of the book.

I never thought I'd pick up a horror novel, let alone thoroughly enjoy myself whilst reading it. The nods to Scooby-Doo were wonderful (my favourites being Zonix River and the mine cart ride), and all in all I was sad to see this hilarious from-mushing monster-filled mystery come to an end.


Diversity note: Lesbian Latina protagonist

Warnings: therapy, drug overdose, death, non-consensual touching/rape (but within a nightmare and consent is ambiguous), transphobia, negative language towards people with mental illnesses, alcoholism, mental health institutions, hospitals, gore, violence, guns.

2 comments:

  1. This sounds like such a fun read. I'm really into horror movies these days, and thrillers are a go-to genre for me anyway, so I think I might check this out. The spin on Scooby-Doo sounds so intriguing. Sucks that the mental illness rep and some phobic language was in there, though. :/ Wonderful, thorough review!

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    1. If you're a fan of horror movies I'd really recommend this! (Although what do I know - last time I saw a horror movie I had to leave the cinema because I couldn't even get through the first 20 minutes haha.)

      Some of the attitudes were really disappointing. It was kind of background to the story but still it wasn't cool. I feel like when books/movies/shows want to be 'creepy' they threw in mental health institutions with minimal research. Genre isn't an excuse to be offensive. Also with the gender comments - being set in the 90s also isn't an excuse.

      Thank you Aimal :D

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