#26 My Hairiest Adventure
Front Tagline: It keeps growing... and growing... and growing...
Back Tagline: He's Having A Really, Really Bad Hair Day...
Official Book Description:
Larry Boyd just found the coolest thing in the trash. It's an old bottle of INSTA-TAN. "Rub on a dark suntan in minutes"-- that's what the label says. So Larry and his friends do. But nothing much happens.
Until Larry notices the hair. Dark, spikey [sic] hair growing on his hands and face. Really gross shiny hair.
Hair that jeeps growing back even after he shaves it off....
Well, we might as well get this out of the way. All together now: This is the one where it turns out they're all dogs or something.
As the book opens, Larry Boyd is running from a pack of dogs. For some reason, dogs just love chasing after Larry. Maybe I misremembered the twist and they all turn out to be Milkbone Dog Treats or something. Larry slides across ice and snow as he races towards his friend Lily's house. Luckily Lily has just the thing to stop a dog chase: a snow shovel, which she waves around in a threatening manner. The dogs all scamper away so they can laugh at her without hurting her feelings. Please note that this opening sequence is the only remotely adventurous event in a book with the word "Adventure" in the title.
Larry made the trek to Lily's house so that they and their friends Manny, Kristina, and Jared can rehearse for the upcoming Middle School Battle of the Bands. I know what you're saying, "I've never heard of a middle school throwing a Battle of the Bands" contest, and the fact that they only have one other band competing against them certainly would explain why this isn't a regular event. Their main competition is a band called Howie and the Shouters, a superior rock n' roll group led by the titular school jerk. But Larry and crew's band is offering stiff competition for the, um, competition.
See, their band, the Geeks, consists of three guitars, a keyboard, and vocals. Bass guitar and drums are a lot easier to learn than the guitar, but not in Goosebumps world. Another questionable musical moment soon follows when the keyboard's "saxophone" preset is said to perfectly recreate the sound of a saxophone solo, over which the characters roundhouse their instruments. It doesn't help the band any that they spend as much time changing their name as they do actually playing music-- "Pirate Gold" is vetoed for not being as cool as "the Geeks," which is almost as bad a decision as that time Vampire Weekend rejected any other band name at all in favor of "Vampire Weekend." The Geeks work each other up with trash talk about Howie and the Shouters, joking about how horrible Howie's squeaking guitar sounds. Somewhere, Isaac Brock is sobbing into a couch cushion.
Perhaps you're thinking, "Well, they may be no match for Howie and the Shouters, but maybe they've got the right look for a popular band." First, that's a very relevant thought and I thank you for thinking it. Second, nope. Larry has big ears (which are over-exaggerated on the horrible horrible cover) and wavy blonde hair; Lily is blonde with bangs and her eyes are two different colors (remember, this is the one where they all turn out to be Marilyn Manson or something); Manny is a man, so there goes any relevant Degrassi jokes; Kristina is fat and so of course she's always eating in every scene; Jared plays keyboards and if he was given more character information than that, I don't remember it. Maybe he's the mysterious fourth Smoosh sibling.
Well, after running through a couple classic rock songs, the kids decide to take ten and go play in the snow. While outside, they decide that if they're gonna be in a rock band, they might as well practice being poor. While digging through their neighbor's trash, they come across a discarded medicine cabinet. Showing they indeed are not ready to be musicians, they ignore the pharmaceutical bottles and instead retrieve a bottle of INSTA-TAN. For some reason, all five members of the band think that it would be really awesome to get a fake tan.
So awesome that they excitedly race into the bathroom and take turns squirting the liquid on their bodies. I guess this was written before adults realized what groups of children really do in a bathroom together. Everyone is having such a grand old time rubbing fake tan solution on their bodies that no one cares when Larry expresses concern over the fact that the INSTA-TAN expired in 1991.
The hilarious bathroom tanning party ends when Manny pretends to peel off his skin, only to reveal that it was merely a wet kleenex. Again, so close to what teenagers are doing in the bathroom and yet so far.
The gang makes its way back outside and participates in a massive, highly-unlikely snowball fight. The fun of the afternoon proves to have been too much for Larry and he loses consciousness and collapses. I'm avoiding making puberty and pubic hair jokes in conjunction with the forthcoming hair-growth scenes, but I'm not above raising my eyebrows over the name of Larry's pediatrician: Dr. Murkin. Dr. Murkin gives Larry his regular bi-monthly shot and reminds the boy that he's not supposed to overexert himself, as he doesn't have sweat glands. Larry whines and Dr. Murkin pats Larry's head and tells him he's still a good boy, a good boy! Yes he is, yes he is!
Please note that for every half-assed attempt at giving the characters dog-traits, such as different colored eyes and no sweat glands on the skin, there's still plenty of missteps, such as the fact that everyone can see colors. Also, outside of barking "Jingle Bells" in popular Christmas novelty songs, dogs don't possess musical abilities.
After his injection, Larry races back to the snowball party but finds that it dissipated shortly after he left. Apparently Howie came by to gloat about having bought an Eric Clapton songbook for the contest, so I guess the sixth grade audience can look forward to being regaled with a squeaky-guitar rendition of "Cocaine."
That night, between the snowball fight, the fake tan party, and playing with his cat Jasper, Larry's simply exhausted. But before he can drift off to sleep, he's shocked to discover a thick patch of hair growing on his palm. He races to the bathroom and luckily he beat Jack Lemmon, so there's still razorblades inside. He lathers up and shaves his palm. It's a disgusting scene. There's a lot of shaving scenes in the book and they're all disgusting, though at least they all end before "Needle In the Hay" can start playing.
The next morning, Larry is paranoid about his hair growth. Everyone already calls him "Hairy Larry," and since kids aren't very creative, this wouldn't get them to stop. He tries asking Lily if she experienced the same thing, since he's attributing this growth to the fake tan they all used. Lily reveals that in fact she has and also she's a werewolf. Larry buys her story for a few minutes, which goes to show you, dogs are dumb. Proof:
But I had believed her story. Up to the part where she said she ate three people.In class, Howie gives a book report on a Matt Christopher novel. If you never read a Matt Christopher book as a child, they were basically the Horror at Camp Jellyjam without monsters. Howie's oral report is awful but he's Howie, so he manages to ace it. Larry goes up to give his Bruce Coville (!) report but Howie trips him. Larry's confused though: it's winter but he'd just been wished a nice fall. Sorry. While picking himself up the ground, Larry notices the hair has grown back around his hands, this time covering both palms. He runs out into the hall and retrieves his gloves from his locker. Things could be worse, though. Lots of cool people wear gloves: chauffeurs, elevator operators, Mickey Mouse.
What follows in the book is sixty pages of hair growth. Sometimes on the knees, hands, arms, and regrettably near the end, across the forehead. Let me reiterate: reading about hair growth is gross. At some point, Manny disappears and a dog with the same shaggy hair as Manny joins the pack of dogs that runs around the small town. When Larry goes to investigate, he discovers Manny's house is completely empty. He can't figure out why he left, but of course his biggest concern is that now the Geeks only have two guitar players instead of three. Oh no, now they can no longer re-enact Zaireeka on stage.
Things go from bad to bad when Lily also disappears. When Larry tries to talk to her parents, they quickly drive away, but not before insisting they never knew any Lily. Now down to one guitar player (If they keep losing members, they'll just turn into Casiotone For the Painfully Alone), the Geeks must make a difficult decision as the Battle of the Bands approaches. If they drop out, someone's going to have to scribble out the final 's' on all the promotional material. The remaining kids ultimately decide that regardless of the dwindling size of their band, the show must go on. Triumphantly, they declare that they'll do it for Lily. And they're not the only ones doing it all for Lily:
Finally the night of the Battle of the Bands arrives. Luckily, Jared's mother was in the audience and while she ignored the other members of the group, she did capture some excellent footage of her son's performance:
Since Howie and the Shouters went on first and were even called back for an encore, the bar was set pretty high for the Geeks. Luckily they brought the house down with "I Want To Hold Your Hand"-- or should that be "I Want To Hold Your Paw"? Amazingly, the Geeks win the Battle of the Bands on the strength of their special effects. See, while performing, Larry turns into a dog. The audience, being huge fans of the Teen Wolf movies, thinks this is done with Hollywood Magic, when it is in fact done with Larry being a dog.
Ashamed, Larry runs home and tells his parents what happened. His father's reply?
But the Twist is:
"You're a dog."
See, Dr. Murkin developed a way of turning dogs into children and then giving them to his employees. The twice-monthly injections were booster shots of the serum, but after a dozen years, the formula loses its effect. Everyone in the town works for Dr. Murkin and all the children are in fact dogs. His former parents tell Larry that Dr. Murkin has decided not to turn dogs into children anymore. The book ends with Larry's parents bringing home a newborn baby girl named Jasper. So at least one of them turns out to be a cat or something.
the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Larry and his bandmate Lily, who disappears halfway through the novel and also turns out to be a dog or something.
Nope, I can't think of a single instance of any adult in this book making a poor decision.
"Mr. Boyd, I've called you and your wife into my office to tell you that your company dog is now your company child. If you have any parenting questions, remember, I'm a scientist. Buy a book or something. Okay see you guys l8r."
Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
I'll never get tired of this. Ch. 25/26:
"You're a dog."
Great Prose Alert:
"Let's try it!" Manny repeated, grinning his crooked grin.
Most Goosebumps books are dogs, but this one is a real howler.