Put on your pajamas, grab a bowl of Apple Jacks (my mom wouldn’t let me have Lucky Charms, my first choice in ridiculous sugars disguised as breakfast cereals), and settle in for a delightful romp through The Case of The Really Deep Lake.
Homages can wildly miss the mark, turning into tiresome parody after a few minutes (reference: most Saturday Night Life skits), but Cantero has done something marvelous, re-imagining the Scooby-Doo gang* as real, somewhat complicated people scarred by their youthful adventures.** Well, Scooby-Doo (©, I’m sure) is never explicitly mentioned. But we have a crew of four–sort of–and a dog, and they were made famous after solving the Mystery of Sleepy Lake Monster. They went their separate ways until Andy realizes that the mystery was never really solved, leaving them all more than a bit dysfunctional, and she decides to get the gang back together.
I won’t say much more, as bullet points are too reductionist for the complexity here. Suffice it to say that although I expected somewhat cartoonish capers, there was also an emotional depth that proved surprising. That said, I loved the dog, Tim, and his newfound love, Squeaky Penguin.
Cantero is very playful with the narrative, a technique other reviewers note as distracting and disjointed. Besides the ubiquitous point-of-view changes in everyone’s writing these days, occasionally the writing jumps from third-person limited point-of-view into screenwriting format, including cues. There’s also a number of made up words (sadly, not zoinks!) that I tended to find amusing.
[Pause while carol looks through other reviews]. There’s allegations of Native culture co-opting, which I’d argue are unfounded; there’s a difference between using a legend as a piece of a puzzle and claiming authority on said legend or culture.
Even more serious is concern over gender and sexual identities, incompletely portrayed. For me, a budding romance was awkward and gentle, the ultimate distillation of a non-definable relationship between two people. But I’m old, and feel less need to categorize or identify with definitions of sexuality and partnership. There are a couple other characters that have a more ambiguous kind of persona, and a number of reviews found those problematic. I did not. Some of it may be lost to translation. Some may be lost to Contero abandoning a more literary effort for Hollywood-style/cartoon-style reductionism. Whichever. For me, these things were small enough to overlook (honestly, the first instance was confusing enough that I just ignored it; the second is a plot point), but that may be a generational and/or personal issue.
*for heaven’s sake, don’t even mention “Scrappy Doo” to me.
**Example of the old-school Scooby Doo here.