I'll admit I wasn't sure what to expect when I went into this. I finally got the book delivered to my house on Saturday, thinking I'd maybe read a bit here and there when I got time. Given you're reading this review now, it shouldn't come as too big of a surprise that I finished this book in two days. This was really good, to the level of "can't put it down it's so good!" Admittedly, I may have finished it in one night had it not been after midnight when I started reading on Saturday...but even then, it was hard to put the book down!
Before I get into the review, let me clarify a few things. Despite the design on the cover, no, this is not in any way connected to the Daphne & Velma live action film released in 2018. Also, this is a non-spoiler review, so if you're reading this review to get a sense of whether to buy the book yourself, I'm not going to spoil anything!
I also thought it was interesting how the author used a fake psuedonym, Josephine Ruby (a reference to Joseph Ruby, creator of Scooby-Doo).
One of my favorite things about Daphne & Velma is that had lots of great references, the most blatant one being they live in Crystal Cove, CA. The city also has rumors of a "Crystal Cove Curse," although it's a different curse than the one in SDMI. In a sneak preview of the second book, the Lady Vampire of the Bay (from Scooby and Scrappy-Doo) is mentioned and it seemed to me they were setting her up to be the main villain in the second book. The whole atmosphere of Crystal Cove potentially being haunted sets the novel up to have a very creepy feel, which I loved.
Daphne and Velma, as the title hints, are the two main characters. But it's not just them! Shaggy, Fred and Scooby also appear in the book. One major difference is that Scooby cannot talk, at all. He appears very briefly in the final scene of the book, but is referenced a few times.
Fred does make an appearance, but he is also very much a side character. He makes a single appearance and is said to be a playboy-type (his single appearance is making out with a girl). As Daphne puts it "Fred Jones has dated one half of the school, and made out with the other half." And I suppose I didn't say it, but they are in high school in this series. Daphne and Velma are said to be juniors, but it is not clear if Shaggy and Fred are in the same grade.
Shaggy, on the other hand, is a pretty consistent character in the book. He's not a main character, but he shows up regularly throughout the book. Shaggy is super laid back, but is also very popular and throws parties for the entire school. He says, however, that he does it as a public service and he actually hates parties, thus why he hangs out in his room during all his parties. I sort of liked this version of Shaggy, though it's strongly implied at the end that Shaggy is hiding something, which seems like it will be the focus of the next book.
Let's get to our main girls! Velma is a social outcast who does not have any friends. She is uber smart, but is an edgy loner after Daphne betrayed her as a child. It takes most of the book to reveal to the reader how this happened, but it does eventually come out and I think the explanation is pretty heartbreaking! This is hardly a spoiler, but Daphne and her do make up, hence why they're the main characters of the series. This does make for the most realistic portrayal we've probably ever seen of the gang, however. In addition to Daphne and Velma, Fred and Shaggy also used to hang out with the girls when they were all 10 years old, but the rift between Velma and Daphne's friendship cause them to all break up. Their mystery solving hobby at the time was said to just be kids playing pretend, but now, Daphne and Velma are able to put the skills they learned to the test. While this might anger some fans that their supposed "Pup Named Scooby-Doo" era adventures were just a child's imagination, I personally liked the more realistic feel of this book as a separate, more mature universe.
While I found Velma's loner, "no one could ever love me!" personality to be quite sad, I did really sympathize with a message that her character discovered early in the book. At the beginning, when Daphne and Velma dislike each other, Velma interprets everything Daphne does as being about Daphne's frustration for her. As the reader quickly finds out, Daphne had wanted to apologize for years but was too afraid of being rejected by Velma. I think it's easy, whether you're a teenager or an adult, to think the world revolves around you and that everybody is doing stuff directly in response to the vibes you're giving off. In reality, most times, the other person is going through stuff as well and it is important to remember that their reaction might be simply about their own frustrations or anxiety rather than an affront to your identity.
I've been talking about Daphne a lot, so let's get to her. Daphne is a spoiled brat, who is best friends with Velma's second (or third, she doesn't remember) cousin Marcy. It's not directly said, but this appears to be inspired by Marcy from "A Scooby-Doo Halloween." She hates her mom and her new stepdad, the latter of whom she blames for ruining her family. This is where the book gets into really mature topics. It turns out, Daphne's mom (named Elizabeth, as with the continuity of the franchise), cheated on her dad when she was 10, and married the person she cheated with, divorcing her husband. This is pretty serious stuff, and Daphne's hatred of her stepdad is quite intense.
Speaking of maturity, this book has quite a lot of it. One thing in particular that stuck out is that tampons are mentioned. I'm not bringing this up to make a huge deal out of it or sound the mature topics alarm, but that little mention definitely symbolizes how mature this book is. Feminism is also mentioned and discussed briefly, but not at all in an in-your-face-way in my opinion. If the Daphne & Velma film didn't bother you, this won't either.
Let's talk about another major mature topic and special appearance that we get: The Hex Girls show up! Luna and Dusk are barely present or developed in the story, however, Thorn is portrayed as a lesbian in the book, and hits on Velma. By mature, I don't mean Thorn's taking off her shirt or anything so crude, but a brief little flirt session does occur, though Velma immediately dodges it and says she's not interested. Daphne also jokes that it seemed like Thorn was hoping for a "make-out session" because of Thorn's obvious flirting. My explanation is about as much as it's ever mentioned, but I'm not sure about it being in future books.
Besides the Hex Girls, we also get the continual return of Shaggy's parents. His father is a police officer, like in A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. He is said to have had an ancestor who came here in 1850 to settle during the Civil War, which definitely lines up with Shaggy having an uncle in the Civil War (Colonel Beauregard from Boo Brothers). It also sort of goes along with the trend that Shaggy's ancestors are explorers, like McBaggy Rogers from "Wedding Bell Boos." Fred's uncle also runs a local newspaper, The Howler, which is said to be a hack newspaper. This is reminiscent of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo where Fred's Uncle Eddie ran that sketchy "National Exaggerator" newspaper. Fred's uncle is named Milford in this continuity however, and ironically appears far more than Fred does in this novel.
In terms of the mystery, I thought it was really well written. It wasn't necessarily easy to figure out, and lots of red herrings were put out there to throw the reader off the track. The idea that girls were vanishing and seeing ghosts was super creepy, especially Marcy's sort of cryptic disappearance. The villains, who I won't say who they are, were unexpected and again a sort of mature theme with drugs comes up.
Instead of the Malt Shop, Daphne and Velma's hangout is a coffee shop named The Mocha. I kinda of liked this modernized version of the classic Malt Shop trope here, and given the sneak preview for book 2, it's definitely going to be recurring.
Overall, this is a great read! It does come across as a bit fanfiction-like at times, which I know bothers some people, but I would definitely recommend at least giving it a chance because it's a really solidly developed universe with a mature take on the characters that many of us adult fans crave.
~ WildwindVampire ~