After the wildly popular Animorphs serial finished its run in the late 90s, KA Applegate turned her attention from science fiction to fantasy, and more specifically to the ancient gods and religions of the old world. The result is the 12 volume series Everworld. While not as popular as Animorphs (technically speaking only 2-3 Young Adult series thus far have been), Everworld surpasses its predecessor in many ways.
Everworld ran from 1999-2001 and told the story of five teenagers from Chicago: David, April, Christopher, Jalil, and the mysterious Senna. Sound familiar? The similarities between Animorphs and Everworld don’t end there, but they certainly take an abrupt fork in the road.
The first thing you might notice about “Everworld” is the comparatively small run. While “Animorphs” spanned 54 entries plus a bunch of special releases and spin offs, “Everworld” is a straightforward plot covering 12 volumes. This makes for a concise narrative that consistently works toward a few resolutions, rather than wandering (as “Animorphs” began to around #30 or so), leaving the reader to wonder if an end is ever coming.
The basic plot has our five aforementioned teens sucked into an alternate dimension known as Everworld, where the gods of old religions–Aztec gods, Greek gods, Norse gods–retreated long ago when science and technology began to eclipse faith and religion. In each book the protagonists travel from one region of Everworld to the next, encountering new gods and monsters as they try to make their way back home.
Their are a couple spectacular plot devices that really allow “Everworld” to work as a cohesive unit, such as the alien species and their gods, Senna’s slowly unwinding back story, and the intricate sleep cycle.
But what truly makes “Everworld” shine is the characters. It’s what makes “Everworld” rereadable, even when you’ve long outgrown the targeted age demo.
Some characters are darker versions of their “Animorphs” counterparts. Christopher, for example, delivers cultural references constantly, considers everyone else a joke, and uses humor to deal with the pains of reality. Sounds like Marco, right? Yes, but Christopher also has a bit of a drinking problem.
Each character has their own demons. David’s are the darkest, lending a hugely credibly layer to his somewhat cliched hero complex, while Jalil’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is perhaps the most interesting considering typical YA fare. With none of the characters being perfect people by any stretch of the imagination, and combining that with the fact that none of the characters knew each other well before being sucked in Everworld, the reader gets some of the most interesting character dynamics in the genre.
In short, they don’t like each other. And why should they? If anything, getting sucked into a world of violent magic and misogynistic religion with a bunch of strangers would make you less likely to become best friends (stress levels would be off the charts!). But of course you’d need to cooperate, and Applegate’s characters are a formidable team, however you can count the passages on two hands where they are all at peace with one another. These moments become a treasure to read, a relief from the ongoing bickering and constant danger they are facing.
The characters grow noticeably, for the worse at first, and then slowly into better people–but then “Everworld” ends. To say the series finale is abrupt would be an understatement, and while in no way would I like to have seen “Everworld” extend another 60 entires, 1 or 2 might have been good. The last book of “Animorphs” was controversial as well, but it was much more appropriate and holds up better than “Everworld.”
Still, while “Animorphs” will always rank #1 in my heart, “Everworld” is Applegate at her best, and highly recommended reading for anyone interesting in the Young Adult or Fantasy genres.