I’m not quick to trust new authors, so when I do find myself wandering past the shelves of a bookstore, it’s a big deal. I look at covers. I look at titles. I read synopses. I’m typically a “completionist” type of reader, so once I start a book, I’m saddled with finishing it.
A few months ago (pre-pandemic), I was walking along the aisles of a Barnes & Noble looking for potential purchases. I’d already picked up a few favorites, so I was ready to find something new. What should catch my eye but Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids.
Right off the bat, the title, cover, and synopsis grabbed my attention.
I didn’t watch that much television in my childhood, but you can bet one of the few shows I did make a point of watching was Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? My sister and I would sit together and watch old reruns of the Hanna-Barbera original for hours when we were being baby-sat by our aunts.
And as anyone who has watched an ounce of Scooby-Doo knows, “meddling kids” is a very familiar phrase.
Already inclined to try out the novel, I picked up Meddling Kids, bought it, and gave it a read.
It was even better than expected.
Former teen sleuths have to revisit an old case of theirs after years of being apart, with all the stereotypical tropes a mystery like that might entail. However, the plot twists are especially delicious, with certain Cthulhu-esque horror elements being liberally borrowed from. And while the characters might fit into set roles, they also diverge from what you would expect, with all the self-aware humor you could want.
I seriously don’t want to spoil the plot for anybody because it’s that good. It’s satisfying and fun without being too heavy-handed.
However, more than the plot, Cantero’s writing style really captivated me. He has this bead on pop culture that leaks into his writing and makes it feel like readers have a window into characters’ inner thoughts. It’s almost akin to the manner in which Stephen King details how his characters think. For example, one of the characters has an intense crush on a girl with curly orange hair. Every time Cantero describes that hair, even though the metaphors start to blend together after a while, you can feel the depth of emotion behind those feelings.
And the references he makes are insanely cool.
Maybe I’m the only dork who think so, but holy hell, he drew more than a few chuckles from me thanks to them.
Occasionally, his writing will devolve into a script-like structure, where he writes a character’s name and then just types what they say.
Amanda: (Slowly) I’m not sure how I would feel writing like this, but it worked for Cantero.
At first, this sudden change in style and structure startled me and pulled me out of the story. But he does it often enough and in moments where it just fits seamlessly with what’s going on, that it starts to feel natural. I grew to appreciate the risk he took in doing that, especially as it lines up with (I assume) his love of pulpy cinema.
Meddling Kids is an incredible read, and I can’t believe how lucky I was to have just stumbled across it. It was like finding a diamond in the rough.
Actually, scratch that, it was like finding a diamond in a pile of diamonds.
Because if finding Meddling Kids has taught me anything, it’s that there are so many talented writers out there who don’t get enough love from readers. There are so many stories out there waiting to be read, it’s giving me chills.