Bad Taste in Boys and Bad Hair Day, by Carrie Harris

If someone set out to re-write Scooby Doo as a book series aimed at teenage girls, the result would probably look a lot like Carrie Harris's Kate Grable novels: Bad Taste in Boys and Bad Hair Day. Like Scooby Doo, Harris's stories are cheerful, ridiculous, and teaming with monsters—none of which, of course, turn out to be genuinely supernatural.

The first book in the series, Bad Taste in Boys, introduces high school student Kate Grable, an “aspiring” (read: absolutely hell-bent on success) doctor. As part of her effort to get into a good medical school, Kate has signed up to be the student medic for the school football team. Her duties are mostly limited to wrapping minor sprains, but when she discovers the coach injecting the boys with unmarked vials of medicine, she's more than competent to diagnose the problem: illegal steroids. Unfortunately, these drugs come with some highly undesirable side effects, including black vomit, imperviousness to pain, and cannibalistic tendencies....

Harris's sequel, Bad Hair Day, is even goofier. Kate has cured the zombie outbreak, but she has new problems: she's participating in a job-shadowing program at the county medical examiner's office when a pair of bodies are delivered, covered in bite marks and mysterious clumps of hair. Kate is absolutely fascinated by the scientific aspects of the mystery (will she get to participate in her first real autopsy?!), but less delighted to discover that she—and her friends—have become the hirsute murderer's latest targets.

I had one massive problem with this series: Bad Hair Day opens with a throwaway scene in which the heroine is grabbed in a way that borders on full-blown sexual assault, and while she defends herself she doesn't take it any further. (She doesn't report the perpetrator, for example.) I'd hate to think of one of Harris's younger readers assuming that a boy walking up to her and purposefully grabbing her breasts falls under the umbrella of normal teenage hijinks—it doesn't, and the idea of the otherwise utterly kick-ass Kate letting this behavior slide is both creepy and depressing.

Thankfully, the rest of Bad Taste in Boys and Bad Hair Day was so much fun it almost made up for the scene mentioned above. There's a sweet romantic subplot, but most of the books' humor comes from Kate's full-blown love affair with science. She's equally thrilled by dissections, nanobots, and performing an emergency tracheotomy, and her boundless enthusiasm keeps the series pretty much angst-free, even as her town is overrun with vomit-spewing zombies and terrorized by murderous werewolves. Normally, I'd recommend any series featuring a self-sufficient, take-no-prisoners, science-obsessed heroine without a moment's hesitation, but the boob-grabbing scene is tough to get over. Real-life sexual assault shouldn't taint an otherwise perfectly wholesome girl-vs-monster story.

Reviews based on publisher-provided copies.
Posted by: Julianka


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