What’s up, my home doggeeees? Surprise: I’m alive.
I had a goal of covering 20 of these Goosebumps books this year, but with the five-month hiatus I just took, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I wish I could blame school for my not updating, but school has been out for almost two months and I haven’t done anything here. Sadly, I think after five straight semesters of school with no breaks, my brain just burned out. I needed to just take it easy for a couple months for my own mental and emotional well being. I read some books (without putting pressure on myself to write about them), binge-watched some shows, and played some video games. I am just now starting to feel like exerting creative energy and being productive again. I hope you all understand.
Although I was on (an unannounced) break, I spent some time thinking about this blog and what I want to do with it. I decided I want to focus on books and literature. I’m going to continue going through the series I’ve been making my way through for now, although I want to change up how I’m writing these entries, and I want to eventually cover more books. Up until this point, I have been focusing primarily on plot synopsis, catering to nostalgic fans of these series like myself. I realized lately I can do more. I want to attempt to motivate new and reluctant readers.
These books are a lot of fun, and although I spend a lot of time making fun of them, there is a lot of good in them that has hooked countless readers, including myself. Starting with this book and going forward, I want to look deeper at them and showcase the good stuff. I’m talking symbolism, characterization, foreshadowing, and more.
You’re hearing me right: I’m about to analyze the crap out of a Goosebumps book.
I actually love this cover. This is an accurate illustration of Larry freaking out about his hair growth in front of his bathroom mirror. It’s cool-looking, and it motivated me to pick this book up as a kid.
The only issue I have with it is Larry is staring at the palms of his hands. The hair, as clearly illustrated on this cover, is on the backs of his hands. Larry should be looking at the backs of his hands. That might have made it more difficult for us to see the hair on his hands, however, so I understand the creative decision.
Tagline: It keeps growing… and growing… and growing….
While this is not a bad tagline, I would not have selected it for a book that can very easily be joked about being about puberty.
The title is My Hairiest Adventure. Need I say more?
Larry Boyd, twelve-year-old protagonist, begins the book by being chased by dogs. His friend, twelve-year-old Lily, comes to his rescue and scares off the dogs. Important to note is that Lily has one blue eye and one green. Larry follows Lily into her home where they and their friends, Manny, Jared, and Kristina practice for an upcoming Battle of the Bands concert. Their group is called The Geeks, but had several more awesome names including The Spirit before settling on The Geeks.
After practice, the group heads outside to build a snowman. Larry gets distracted by a moving neighbors’ trash and decides to rummage through it. He finds a bottle of Insta-Tan, and the kids all think it would amazing fun to go put on tans. They quickly run inside and rub the stuff all over themselves. Larry later discovers the bottle is expired by about a year and freaks out, but Lily assures him expiration dates don’t mean anything (wait, what?). The Insta-Tan does not work. Jared jokes they are all paler than before. They kids all run back outside and have a snowball fight. Amidst the fun, Larry collapses.
He is taken to his doctor, Dr. Murkin, who we learn has been injecting him biweekly with a green serum. Apparently, Larry has sweat gland issues. He does not sweat and has a problem overheating.
Over the next few chapters, Larry grows funky patches of hair all of his body. No, this is not puberty. The hair is described as “thick and spiky,” and grows on the backs of his hands, his forehead, and his knees. He shaves it off as it grows with his dad’s razor. In a couple scenes at school, Larry puts gloves on to cover the embarrassing hair from others. He is terrified of being called Hairy Larry for life.
Around here somewhere, Larry finds a dog that resembles his friend Manny. Despite his friend Manny actually being missing, and Larry growing weird hair everywhere, he does not put two and two together. He blames the Insta-Tan and asks his friends if they have had weird hair growing in odd places, too. They do not admit to hitting puberty yet, but his friend Lily is acting strange.
Larry tries to tell his parents about his hair problem, and finally gets through to his dad while they are on a run. He is taken back to Dr. Murkin and is given another injection. Dr. Murkin assures Larry that the Insta-Tan has nothing to do with the hair growth.
In the final chapters, a dog with Lily’s eyes follows Larry home. His mom suggests he check the dog’s ID tag, and Larry discovers it isn’t an ID tag at all, but rather a coin Lily wore around her neck. Larry yells that this dog is Lily and chases after it. His mom yells for him to come back. Larry and the dog get to Lily’s house and find Lily’s parents. They tell Larry there is no Lily there and that it’s better if he just forgets about Lily.
Larry and his two remaining friends decide to participate in the Battle of the Bands concert as a trio. Larry starts growing hair while on stage, and his band surprisingly wins the contest because of awesome “special effects.”
Larry runs home and yells at his parents about his hair, begging them to believe him about the Insta-Tan. They tell him that his hair isn’t a result of the Insta-Tan, but rather that Larry is turning into a dog. Well, he’s turning back into a dog. They explain that Larry and his friends are dogs, and that Dr. Murkin was giving him an injection every two weeks to make him human. The entire town apparently works for Dr. Murkin, and they are all raising these dogs as kids. Unfortunately, Dr. Murkin’s serum doesn’t last long in dogs, and that’s why Larry is turning back into a dog. His parents state that they can no longer run the serum on dogs because it’s too hard on the parents when they lose their kids.
I forgot to mention that the Boyds, Larry’s parents, have a cat named Jasper. In the final chapter, Larry and Lily are running around as dogs when they see Larry’s parents come home with a new baby girl, Jasper.
This book, probably more than any other Goosebumps title, is an excellent vehicle in which to examine foreshadowing. The reader should absolutely see the ending coming from bread crumbs Stine has scattered throughout the pages.
Dogs take a special interest in Larry and chase him throughout the book. It’s almost as if they are territorial around him.
Larry has a sweat gland problem and does not sweat. Dogs also do not sweat. They pant and release condensation through their tongues.
Larry’s cat Jasper is weirded out by him and doesn’t want to be around him.
Larry delivers a book report in the novel on a science fiction book by Bruce Coville. I had never heard of Coville, but I did some reading on him after reading this book, and he wrote some books on werewolves.
Finally, there’s Stine’s diction. Early on in Chapter 2, Stine writes as Larry,
I leaned over the side of the Dumpster and began shuffling through the stuff. I love old junk. I can’t help myself. I just love pawing through piles of old stuff.
The use of the verb “pawing” is interesting considering what happens to Larry at the end of the book.
What’s great about these things are they are all small and commonplace, but they stand out if you read the book already knowing what is going to happen. Great foreshadowing should leave you saying, “Oh yeah!” at the end. How many of you were surprised?
I would be remiss if I did not talk about the bottle of Insta-Tan. It is what Larry felt was the cause of his troubles. I believe it is a symbol of overdue change.
Larry and his friends rub the contents of the bottle all over their bodies expecting to tan, and nothing changes. Yet, after applying the liquid, Larry starts reverting back to his dog form. I do not believe that the Insta-Tan causes the changes in Larry, but it is important that Larry believes that it does.
Interesting to note is that the bottle of Insta-Tan is expired. Larry’s parents inform him that the dogs have not been able to remain human for very long. Like the bottle of Insta-Tan, Larry’s life as human is expired. Because Larry blames the Insta-Tan for his changes, readers can connect the expired bottle of Insta-Tan to Larry’s expired human form.
Late in the book, Larry goes to Lily’s house to search for the discarded empty bottle in hopes that Dr. Murkin can study it and “cure” Larry. When he finds the empty bottle, dogs approach Larry and he tries to run from them. As he runs, he trips, and the bottle falls to the ground, hits a rock, and shatters. As the bottle falls, Larry narrates,
I reached for it, grasping desperately.
Larry’s last hopes break with the bottle. He desperately tries to hold on to his human self, but Larry quickly becomes a dog after this.
If we make the bottle of Insta-Tan parallel with the serum Dr. Murkin uses to turn dogs into humans, we can assert that the serum is expired and Larry’s change is overdue. As I wrote above, Larry’s friend Jared jokes that the Insta-Tan made them paler than before. While the Insta-Tan does not actually cause the changes Larry experiences, it is a strong literary device that represents the change Larry goes through.
This is actually, surprisingly, one of the stronger entries in the series. I could see the ending coming from a mile away, but I was fine with it because the clues were well-placed. I try to keep in mind that I’m an adult, and twelve-year-olds reading this book might not notice the clues as quickly.
I really enjoyed Larry as a character. He didn’t seem to whine about his troubles, but rather, he tried to fix them himself. He does eventually go to adults when he discovers his problems are bigger than he can deal with, which twelve-year-olds should do.
I really like the climax and reveal in this book, too. The book starts slow and gradually rises in tension until Larry fully becomes a dog. The reveal does not seem as random as the reveals in some other Goosebumps books I’ve read. It seems natural for the plot’s progression, and I found the idea to be really cool.
Interesting plot. Nice and relatable protagonist. Great symbolism and foreshadowing. Well done, Stine.