In December of 2010 Scholastic announced they would be reprinting the first three titles in KA Applegate’s Animorphs series. Before Harry Potter, Animorphs was second only to R L Stein’s Goosebumps in terms of best-selling children’s books. That number is likely increasing, since books 4-6 were commissioned shortly after the inaugural title was released with this nifty new cover, and as of now up to the 8th entry of the series will be re-released.
As a lifelong KA fan, this news was all great to me, but the best part was having an excuse to start the series from the beginning. I’ve read the first four since they were released in the new format and this morning I finished the fifth.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Animorphs tells the tales of five kids (8th graders) who are gifted the power to morph into any animal they can touch. It’s not just something to do after school though, the gift is a weapon to defend the Earth from Yeerks, in invasive species of space parasites which crawl into a human’s brain and control them entirely. In this way the invasion is covert. Only the kids know it’s going on, and only they have the power to stop it.
Animorphs is different from today’s YA due to it being a serial. Serials don’t really exist anymore, and this is sad. I remember 4th grade, every month a new book order would come in and there’d be at least one new Animorph title to order. Now when it came to The Babysitter’s Club, I imagine the idea was “Milk this as much as you can before it’s over.” But with Animorphs, KA utilized the episodic to format to create subtle, believable developments in her characters. Just five books in and we see how war is effecting our protagonists at the tender ages of 13-15.
“The Predator” is an especially character-driven edition, with Marcos taking turn as narrator. Marcos is the jokester in the group, but with the two year anniversary of his mother’s death approaching, the ability to enter Marcos’ mind shows us he’s not the happiest kid on earth. Couple this with one of the most famous scenes in the series, in which our heroes attempt to sneak into a building via ant tunnels but are foiled not by the evil Yeerk empire, but rather another colony of ants, and Marcos is ready to call it quits. “Too many close calls,” he tells Jake, and Jake understands.
The books deals with Marcos’ various torments. He knows the right thing to do is help his friends and his planet, but he also knows if anything happens to him, his father–whose already “snapped” after losing his wife–would completely lose it. Marcos can’t deal with the thought.
So what happens? Does Marcos stay or leave? I suggest you read it to find out. If you are an aspiring YA author I can’t stress enough how important a series like Animorphs is. KA did 30+ times what Suzanne Collins failed miserably at in “Mockingjay”: effectively show how the terrors of war completely overwhelm the innocence of youth. Sure, Animorphs is depressing at times, but it manages to entertain as well as portray six unique personalities, each dealing with the issues at hand in their own way.
“The Capture”, 6th in the series, was re-released last month.