Classic MG Discussion: Animorphs

October 31, 2014 2014, classics, Kim, middle grade, readalong, sci fi or futuristic 44

animorphs

Hello, friends! This glorious day is finally upon us. Today is the day The Midnight Garden discusses Animorphs! We hope you were able to join us in reading Books 1-3. It’s such a lovely sci-fi series full of action, aliens, a diverse truly bad ass cast of kid characters, and spades emotional depth. All three of us ended up loving them; we hope you did as well!

Let’s dive in!

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General Thoughts

Layla: This was delightful and I wish I’d been reading these alongside Goosebumps when I was a baby! There’s so much reading I missed out on! On the bright side, I’m sure my loss was the family dog’s gain; she probably wouldn’t have appreciated my attempts to acquire her DNA.

Wendy: I never read these either, but man oh man, would I have been all over them as a kid. As I was reading book one, I realized I was actually tensing up because I was so engrossed with what was happening. Talk about action-packed! And ALIENS. Scary-ass aliens. There’s a sense of menace and race-against-the-clock urgency established right from the very first chapter.

Layla: I was really struck by the similarities between good Animorph-morphing and bad Yeerk infestation. As soon as the kids morph into different creatures, there’s always that brief moment of struggle between their minds and the mind of the animal they’re morphing into, and there are moments when the animal seems to fight back? (The Visitor: “Quite suddenly the shrew mind lost the battle for control. It was like a switch had been flipped.”) Or there’s at least a negotiation between human mind / animal morph (Like when Rachel morphs into a cat and she just lets the cat mind hang out, too, telling the cat brain that Chapman is prey.)

Kim: It’s interesting that you make this comparison because one of the themes of the series as it goes on is the blurring of the line between “good and evil” and what makes humans any better than the Yeerks. Book #19 in particular is absolutely groundbreaking and could essentially also be called My First Mindfuck, because damn. At first, this is all fairly straightforward (we’re just some kids battling the alien bad guys, yeah!) As things go on the situation becomes more complex. It’s wonderful!

the visitor animorphsLayla: I just went to go read spoilers for that. OMG.

Wendy: I love that moment of struggle–it puts you in their place with a fantastic sense of immediacy. Many of the themes in this series are similar to those explored in Star Trek and its iterations, particularly TNG. I love that it’s young kids who hold the fate of the world in their hands, though, and it definitely feels like its own thing.

Holy shit, I just read the wiki for that book, too. :-O

Layla: It’s interesting because it seems like there’s a similarity there with Yeerk-infestation; Jake can see Tom trying to fight Yeerk control; both of the Chapmans also fight and break through at some point. I mean, I know the two things are different (the animorphs are turning into the creatures whose mind fights them, and they’re not taking over random animal bodies), but it’s interesting that the way the Animorphs fight back is similar.

I was interested in how the rules for morphing are defined as the novels progress. And I have so many questions! I want a companion guide to morphing or something to answer them. For example, why can’t they morph into something that’s dead? We’re told that it doesn’t matter if an animal is injured; why is death any different? Their DNA is still there to grab, no? Can they not do it because it would be too creepy?

Kim: Heh. I have no understanding of the actual workings of DNA and biology but I imagine when something’s dead that information is deteriorating? Organisms start decaying the instant of death so I guess it’d have something to do with that

Wendy: Yeah, I would like to see them doing research or talking to an alien at some point so we can learn more about the principles behind the morphing process. How it’s portrayed is relatively realistic at this point, given their age, but at some point I’d assume/guess they’ll start asking more questions and doing more tests.

I like Kim’s theories on the biology. I also wonder on the less sciency side, if it has something to do with the animal’s consciousness, since they are both duelling entities within the same animal body when the kids morph into them? Like, they wouldn’t know how to inhabit that body and use their instincts? I dunno. We have to corner Katherine Applegate and question her.

Layla: Science! Every day a school day.

I loved the way there’s so much horror around being certain animals. Or about being too much of an animal, even when you’re morphed, and how much eating, for example, (what you eat, how you eat) is one of the boundaries between human / animal the book  focuses on. (Like when anole!Jake eats a spider or when hawk!Tobias tears into some small critters! & that for Tobias is the moment that sends him into a tailspin.)

Wendy: Yeah, Rachel morphing into a shrew was off-putting. And the eating of maggots, blech.

Layla: Marco’s mom HAS to be a Yeerk, right? I feel like this is as inevitable as Tobias and Rachel’s love connection. Her body is missing and we know the Yeerks have been around for a bit and oh man, poor Marco.

Wendy: !!!!!

Kim: I have nothing to say about that. :) But there are plenty of surprises to go around with Animorph family members! I can say that much.

Layla: I am so grossed out by the ear slugs. I want to sleep with cotton balls in my ears and keep them Yeerk-free.

Kim: Me too but that’s part of the appeal. I remember being equally thrilled by the strange fascination and horror of the situation. They were the first books I ever read with any sort of parasitic takeover/body horror and I loved it because I’m just a creepy creeperson like that.

Wendy: I was actually surprised by the visceral punch of some of the imagery. These books do not shy away from violence or shudder-inducing moments, although it’s not over the top at all.

Kim: I am so thrilled, over the moon really, that you guys had such positive reactions to these books! I was so nervous what you’d think going into them as first time readers. For me, these books were a foundational experience and are actually what got me into science fiction in the first place. I have the fondest memories of buying them at the Scholastic book fair (best week of the yeaaarrrrr) and just generally being unable to wait to get my hands on the next installment. Up until the point I read them when I was 10 I had only ever read contemporary and historical fiction. Everything about these books was so fresh and exciting and new. The aforementioned are lovely books but aren’t really known for their action, excitement and plot twists. As an adult I can see it coming from a mile away but I remember first reading The Invasion and being absolutely shocked that Tom was a Controller. And when the first book ends and we find out Tobias is stuck as a hawk? I remember my heart twinging and that was it. I was in this one for the long haul.

Wendy: Aw, Kim! <3 I admit, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this (I’m always suspicious of popular series, sue me), but I love it! I can see how discovering this would jolt you into a love of science fiction and action and romance and angst. These came along right after I stopped reading newly published middle grade as much, but I always hungered for this type of thing, too, and never got much of it. But I saw that Layla literally just added one such book to her TBR list that I adored as a kid–The Girl with the Silver Eyes! Kids with telekinesis and government agents hunting them down. I totally want to do that one as a readalong sometime. It was a Scholastic Book Fair book for me, too. I wonder how many kids have become avid readers in part because of Scholastic and their monthly flyers! So much love for them.

Layla: I want to re-read that! I added it to my GR because I thought about it for the first time in years and was like, “Hey, note to self that this book exists in the world.” I haven’t read it since I was a kid but I remember loving it.

Animorphs The EncounterLayla: SCHOLASTIC BOOK FAIR YES! (It’s also where I got my first Harry Potter book, as well as other childhood favorites, including a book about killer bees and another book about the Bubonic Plague.)

I was surprised / impressed by the Tobias!hawk storyline. I didn’t think there were going to be consequences! and/or thought there would be a magical fix to Tobias’s hawkness. But no. Now he’s a hawk. (For at least three books.) Anyway, it’s heart-breaking

Wendy: I was stunned when Tobias was stuck as a hawk at the end of the first book, but by the end of book three I was practically beside myself with sadness for his plight. Kim, you were so right to have us read the first three books for this readalong–I enjoyed the first two, but it’s number three that makes me definitely continue reading the rest of the series.

Kim: Yeah, the third book is when this series starts to really feel like the Animorphs that it later becomes. This is a super long series but worth every second spent with it. What starts out as a fairly straightforward sci-fi/paranormal story about a bunch of kids who find themselves with superpowers and go around battling aliens (lols- fairly straightforward!) actually becomes a quite serious examination on the costs of war, morality, ethics, and genocide. There is much heartbreak and devastation and the series does not end without considerable sacrifice. I loved that these books never talked down to young readers and presented all of this serious subject matter in a way that naturally flowed with the story and was never overhanded in its messaging.

I super love that of the five core characters we have two girls (who don’t take any shit) and two POC. A demand for diversity in kidlit has been in the spotlight so much this year (and deservedly so). Animorphs was doing it in 1996 and effortlessly.

Wendy: The diversity focus has been huge this year, it’s kind of overwhelming. The education and awareness are certainly important, but I also sincerely appreciate the authors and publishers who have been giving us characters from different walks of life all along. In this book, ethnicity is a non-issue–it’s just a fact of life.

Layla: Yes! Rachel and Cassie are wonderful. I, er, kind of ship them. It’s from that first moment where Cassie is quailing against Rachel’s shoulder or something. They are the Xena/Gabrielle of these books for me.

Kim: I also loved that the characterization of all kids shines through so clearly in the opening scenes. They all have clearly defined personalities and I love them all for being exactly who they are flaws and all. (Though let’s be honest, I love Tobias more than the others because OBVIOUSLY)

I’m also a big fan of the shipping to be had here. Jake’s crush on Cassie is adorable. And Rachel and Tobias? Please. She had a picture of him handy. Tobias “doesn’t know why” he’s drawn to Rachel for comfort. Now he’s a hawk forever. All my cries. Seriously, just give me a tragic/doomed couple and I’ll ship the hell out of it.

Layla:  I am surprised Jake does not use the word “LIKE-like” to describe his feelings about Cassie. Re: Rachel – in my mind she draws the picture out from underneath her pillow and is like “oh nm idk how this got there, BUT ANYWAY.”

Kim: That is absolutely what happened. Let’s be honest here.

The Invasion

Layla: It is kind of crazy to me how brave and badass everyone is. You see an alien and (1) don’t run away screaming but (2) receive an intergalactic history lesson and (3) then this alien is like “hey want to become a cat” and you’re like YEAH DO IT. I would not have made it past seeing an alien, for reals. The books are so energetic! They pack a lot of action into … less than 200 pages a pop? (i.e., We are running for our lives from aliens / there are also tigers to contend with / now we’re visiting a secret lair / oh my god Tobias is a bird forever now.)

The animal narratives are really great. They make reading these books so fun! I’m impressed at how skillfully this is done over the course of the books, because not only does the author have to develop character, but she has to make that characterization stay consistent when the teens’ morph into different species (as well as develop different voices for different animals, woah).

Wendy: The cat and dog POVs are definitely my favorites, and then later on the hawk’s. There’s both research and thought that went into these portrayals, one that makes you really empathize and not just imagine what it’s like to become an animal.

Layla: All of Tobias’s story makes me the saddest.

Also also, of course a hellmouth is underneath the school. OF COURSE. Bahaha!

Kim: I adore all of these kids. All of them. I love how even when they seem to not be badass, for instance Marco wanting nothing to do with this intergalactic alien war, Cassie steps up to defend him and offer a new perspective. Each one of them brings strengths and flaws that play magnificently off of each other and each is an integral part of the team.

I love the animal narratives so much! I was surprised this time, around since I really didn’t remember much of the animal narratives, how much they struggle with control over the animal forms. I’m sure Katherine Applegate had a lot of fun researching all of these species to write about! And yes, mad props to the author for balancing this all so well.

A thing we should never do is get me going on about Tobias. But more on that under the Book 3 section. Oh but here’s a quick snippet to make your heart sad:

Still Tobias hesitated. <I hate changing back. It’s like going back into a prison or something. I hate it when I don’t have wings.>

“Tobias, you can always return to your hawk morph later,” Rachel reassured him. ‘Now, come on, both of you. I’ll look the other way so your delicate boy modesty isn’t offfended.”

Things I love about this: 1. Tobias feels. 2. Rachel reassuring him. 3. Rachel being sassy.

I do also want to mention how sad/horrifying the scene at the end is where they’re trying to rescue the humans in the cage at the Yeerk pool. Just watching how helpless those people are and then the immediate return to placid, eerie calm when they’ve been Yeerkified again…*shudder*

The Visitor

Layla: I love how much everyone acknowledges that cats would basically be the best host bodies for EVIL SPACE ALIENS to take over. (Visser Three: “Claws and teeth and ferocity mixed with the subtlety to manipulate creatures larger than itself. A worthy creature.”)

Wendy: Cats are clearly the best choice because they’re slinky and sneaky and airily confident they’re always where they belong, so you’d never notice if one wandered into your super secret meeting place and disdainfully stared you down.

Layla: As an unabashed cat lover, I really like how well this book captures cats. (Insofar as cats can be captured, which they can’t, because they’re the best.) When Rachel becomes Fluffer McKitty: “It’s like … You know those old cowboy movies with Clint Eastwood? He’s a gunslinger and he walks into the saloon and everyone kind of gets out of his way? And how he’s not really looking for trouble, but you’d better not make him mad? That’s what it’s like. It’s like I’m Clint Eastwood.” Best description of cats ever!

Kim: I loved the cat portions! Fluffer McKitty and Rachel’s personalities really meshed well, I thought. They’re both really fierce and pretty much don’t really give a fuck. I thought this one was the weakest of the first three storywise, but I really do like Rachel and I like that she, a girl, of all the Animorphs is the most violent and eager for battle. You can’t really tell yet from this volume but as time goes on Rachel is practically unsettling in how much she likes to fight and be the warrior. It’s not really a great thing to be, but I just love that she gets to be a fully fleshed out and very flawed female character (in science fiction!!). She does have a heart, though, as we see with her gentle interactions with Tobias and how much she cares about Melissa. And especially when she uncovers why Melissa’s been so upset, what with her parents being aliens now and all. I feel the sympathy pouring off of her.

Also, she straight up gets street harassed in this book and she does not suffer that shit at all. This went completely over my head as a kid. She also calls out Marco for calling a girl a “skank.” Again, this went completely over my head as a kid but I love that it’s included here. Fight that patriarchy, Rachel!

Storywise, I do want to say that I had a lot of feels re: Melissa’s parents. So many feelings over their plight. I also like the spotlight on people who surrendered to Yeerk control willingly. Mr. Chapman’s sacrifice to keep Melissa safe is one to tug at the heartstrings for sure. What happened to Mrs. Chapman that she would surrender herself completely to the control of another being? (God, I just saw the potential for an adult version of these books and it was haunting.)

Wendy: There aren’t many adults in this series so far, but they’re portrayed sympathetically. A lot of books would go the easy route and make the adults too arrogant to listen to kids (so they have to save the day, blah blah), too dumb to notice what’s going on, too busy to care about their daughter, etc. But the adults are so great here–the kids are the focus of the story, but you see appropriate actions from their parents and mentors.

Kim: Also also, I forget the name of Mr. Chapman’s yeerk but it being sympathetic to Fluffer McKitty and not wanting to kill him marks the first time I felt any sort of “like” toward a yeerk. Not the last time.

Layla: “What happened to Mrs. Chapman …” This is a question that you could answer for us in FANFIC!

animorphs tweet The Encounter 

Wendy: THIS BOOK. <3 You cannot see my face, but as I am typing this, my face is doing the same thing the emoji is doing with the furrowed brown and down-turned mouth. I’m so anxious for him! Poor thing. I enjoyed the first two books, but I am now a devoted fan of the series because of the complexity and maturity and painful sadness of Tobias’ situation.

Layla: So many feels about Tobias and also the dead lady hawk. Crying forever. This book was maybe my favorite of the lot. I think in part it’s because I liked Tobias’s narrative voice – I’m always super intrigued by questions around what makes us human, and this book understandably does a lot of that – but also because it’s kind of bleak in places. There was a moment at the end of this book where I wondered if they were all going to make it, which is weird because, hello, they have plot-protection-shielding and I *knew* that, but all the same. I was tempted to check the wiki to see if we got a fresh batch of Animorphs.

Also, the “let’s all be fish and infiltrate a spaceship” was obviously a terrible idea, you guys. COME ON. It’s like those kids have never seen a heist movie! You’ve got to scope out the joint first!

Kim: Let’s all have a goddamn meltdown about Tobias now. But yeah, this book is a prime example of why you don’t give 11 year olds free reign of advanced alien technology and leave them alone to fight the intergalactic alien war. Exhibit A.

Wendy: Um, I would just like to point out that these grade school kids handle an alien invasion better than the teenagers did in Alienated. <.<

Kim:  And this book is often incredibly bleak. The series itself is often dark and complex and generally not full of sunshine and it’s why I love it. There are some real heavy examinations of what it means to be human and I loved how much my heart hurt by Tobias’ answer to that question in this book. That he knew he was human because he was sad over the death of “ladyfriend!hawk” which is something a hawk would never be. Man, I am super glad I’m not a person trapped in an animal body!

Also, slightly spoilerish for the series ending so I’m putting it behind tags View Spoiler »

Layla: And ladyfriend!hawk! flying towards the sky where she thought she would be safe. ::SNIFF:: That may have been the saddest moment of Book 3 for me. (Even more than Tobias’s “I’M A MONSTER” moment(s)). I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I was also strangely moved by Jake’s desire to be a good dog and the crushing misery he experiences when he’s told he’s a bad dog in morph.

Wendy: Oh my gosh, the dog POV was so great. The undiluted joy and excitement of EVERYTHING contrasted with his sad doggy face when he’s scolded! That one made me laugh a lot, in pleasure and in sympathy.

Kim: My saddest moments are the Rachel x Tobias angst because at the end of the day I am nothing but a shipper. But yeah, this is my favorite of the first three (ALL TOBIAS BOOKS ARE MY FAVORITE ONES). I just love him. He’s such a sweet, gentle, good person who has just had a shit life. And then he gets trapped as a bird. IT GETS EVEN MORE SHIT AND I AM NOT OKAY. I literally just opened up to one of my bookmarks (It’s the scene where Tobias tells Rachel he doesn’t remember what he looked like and he says that Rachel is a person “with strength that runs all the way through her”) and I got all teary. I cannot with this book, you guys. I cannot.

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Final Thoughts?

Layla: Five stars! I’m a fan and kind of want to keep reading just to see what animals they turn into next. (I am bummed by the whole “it has to be alive” thing because what if you could be a dinosaur? or like a megalodon? For spy purposes it would be perfect! No way would people believe that a velociraptor was hiding in their bushes! And then, also, everyone else would get to *see a dinosaur.* And, ok, maybe there’s no available dino DNA but I fully believe that alien technology, like life, can find a way.) Um, and if they defeat Visser Three, too, of course. Also, I am intrigued by the voice that is calling to them from somewhere in the ocean. Whale? Mermaid? Alien?

Kim: Funny you should bring up that voice, Layla! This mystery is solved in Book #4 so I guess you’ll just have to keep reading huh, huh? :D Oh man, this is so hard to say! I give the series as a whole five stars. These first three, though, averaging out I give four stars. The first two are good fun and all but are miles away from what I come to expect from the series from Book 3 on. This series was everything to me as a kid and I’m so glad to be rediscovering it now.

Wendy: As is my habit, I peeked at your ratings after I finished reading each book, Kim (Layla needs to update her GoodReads for those of us who stalk her) and our ratings line up pretty neatly for the first three books. For me, it was high 3.5 stars for #1, 3 stars for #2, and 4.5 stars for #3. BECAUSE TOBIAS. Hey, since we’re all planning on continuing, maybe we should start a discussion group on GoodReads? It’d be a good way to keep chatting about the series as we go at our leisure.

Great news! The readalong is continuing on Goodreads. We could have different discussion threads for things like people looking to find blog partners, swap books, secret santa packages, etc.! I looked into getting community hangout boards for the blog at one point, but maybe this would be easier. I know we have readers who don’t necessarily have their own blog spaces, and this might be a good place to hang out.

Anyway, I digress. I have no shame in admitting that while I want to find out what happens to everybody, I’m MOST intent upon making sure Tobias is okay.

 

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November Readalong: Farmer Boy

(Wendy popping in. Hiii!) It is officially autumn, and it is time for quivering slices of pumpkin pie! And popcorn by the fire! And feeding little pigs that come up to your porch! <3 This month, we’re reading a huge favorite here at TMG, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy.We picked this one because it’s a standalone, perfect for the season, and one that doesn’t seem to be read as often. Also, it’s Wendy’s favorite. :D

Title: Farmer Boy
Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder
Discussion Date: Friday, November 28th
Hashtag: #tmgreadalong

farmer boyWhile Laura Ingalls grows up in a little house on the western prairie, Almanzo Wilder is living on a big farm in New York State. Here Almanzo and his brother and sisters help with the summer planting and fall harvest. In winter there is wood to be chopped and great slabs of ice to be cut from the river and stored. Time for fun comes when the jolly tin peddler visits, or best of all, when the fair comes to town.

This is Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved story of how her husband Almanzo grew up as a farmer boy far from the little house where Laura lived.

That description hardly does justice to this wonderful book, which is full of warm stories about a boy growing up on a farm in the 1800s. I think I’m more familiar with this book than any other I’ve read in the entirety of my life, so I can’t overstate how important it is to me–and I know it’s a special favorite of Kim’s and Layla’s and many of our readers as well. Whether you are a die-hard Laura fan or you’re discovering her for the first time, I hope you’ll join us!

December preview + Classics Challenge

— If you’d like to get a head start on December’s book, we’ll be reading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. We’re having that discussion 12/19 because of the holidays, so be sure to pick that up early if you’re joining us for this cozy winter read!

— And for heaven’s sake, there are only two more months to reach your goal if you’re participating in our Classics Challenge. Remember, read 8 books and review them by the end of the year (as outlined in previous classics posts) in order to be entered to win a set of gorgeous Puffin in Bloom hardbacks. I think I’ll also have a small something for anyone who participates in the challenge as well, even if you don’t quite finish.

 

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Well?! Are you new to series and excited for the Animorphs journey? Are you a veteran fan rediscovering the joys and heartbreaks all over again? We’re just dying to know what you thought. And if anyone is planning on continuing on with the series do let us know in the comments so that Kim can have a support group. Oh and please remember we’re only discussing the first three books below so no spoilers for the rest of the series!

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44 Responses to “Classic MG Discussion: Animorphs”

  1. Nemo @ the Moonlight Library

    Ladies, how did I miss this? I did an entire project re-reading Animorphs in 2013 (http://moonlightlibrary.com/projectanimorphs/). I love how much you’re feeling all the feels, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who idolizes Rachel even this early on in the series. I love to see my differing reactions from when I first read the series as a kid and now as a grown-up – I’m a lot more emotional and empathetic as a grown up!

    Joining the Goodreads group!
    Nemo @ the Moonlight Library recently posted…Welcome to our new home!

  2. Johannah

    I bought my first Animorphs at the scholastic book fair too! I read it – granted I don’t remember EVERYTHING that happened. I just remember the major parts. This was a perfect classics discussion for you ladies! I loved reading it. Sadly, I missed the read-along – I was actually reading the goosbumps book the night of the living dummy for a quick halloween read during one of my night audit evenings in a nearly empty hotel. I do that a lot actually, read creepy books during the night while working my night audit job. Everyone there thinks I’m crazy. I just love getting the creepy crawlies. It also helped that it was on sale on amazon. ha ha!!!
    Johannah recently posted…November Recommendations

    • Kim

      Oh, Scholastic Book Fair! So many fond memories! *sniff*

      And if you don’t remember *Everything* it sounds like now is the perfect time to join us in reading the series!

      https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/145736-animorphs-readalong-tmg-version

      :D

      It was all so very sad, though, wasn’t it? So much tragedy and strife and heartbreak. But that’s war, right? These books were so heavy. But they address so many important themes and topics for young ones especially to read. But adults too. Adults too…

      It sounds like you had a lot of fun with the Goosebumps, though! Ha I get it. A little bit of creepy crawly probably livens up that night audit work, eh?
      Kim recently posted…Stitching Snow: Review

  3. savannah

    Whern I was little for the BookIT program, I read all of these books. My fave were Goosebumps (paranormal), Sweet Valley High (contemporary) as well as Annimorphs (fantasy). I think it is ironic how much I love this book is pretty much what I like to read today as an adult. Those three genres as my fave!!
    savannah recently posted…Review: On The Edge

    • Kim

      Aww BookIt! Did you know there’s a BookIt alumni program going on??

      http://bookitprogram.com/bookitalumni/

      I can’t wait to claim my personal pan pizza!

      And hee! Yes, the books of our youth obviously have a huge influence on our tastes as adults. I’m much less of a contemporary reader now but I devoured Sweet Valley High/Twins when I was a kid. It was actually Animorphs that got me into science fiction and I’ve pretty much been on the SFF track ever since! Just recently learned that Katherine Applegate was a ghostwriter for Sweet Valley Twins but quit to start working on the Animorphs series. So funny! I pretty much quit SVT to start reading Animorphs!
      Kim recently posted…Stitching Snow: Review

  4. Elizabeth

    Oh man – I’ve been meaning to reread the whole series, but my library is missing a few copies (and I think I just heard that they’ve stopped selling this series!!! I’m horrified if that’s true because it is an IMPORTANT series. And also now I have to find a way to buy all of them). I don’t think I read this series all the way to the end (although I looked up what happened because I am a horrible person), but I definitely got at least 2/3 of the way through the series, maybe more. Animorphs was basically my entire 5th grade year. I devoured those books. I guess I must have lost touch with the series as I had to wait for books/busy schedule. But seriously, I think this series is so, so important to read growing up because it definitely gave me a new frame of thinking. Particularly on good and evil – this is probably the first sci-fi book I read where it wasn’t clear at all what was good and what was bad.

    It took me a while to warm up to Marcus, and Rachel scared me a bit, but I love, love, LOVED Tobias and Cassie. I’m so excited you guys are continuing the series! I’ll have to check out what I can from the library, and see what I can find from the missing copies when I get there!
    Elizabeth recently posted…Classic Literature and Breasts: Thoughts on 1Q84

    • Kim

      Oh that is tragic! There is one library in my library system that has the full series and BLESS THEM. Honestly. And yeah, I think the series is currently out of print. It was rebooted a few years back but I think it’s back out of print again. You can get them for Kindle, though. It is *such* an important series. I agree with you. The stuff isn’t high literature but it’s hugely entertaining and engaging and covers so many important topics for kids to read about. *sigh* I will champion Animorphs forever!!

      And you need to finish it! Need to! I’m so glad to see you joined our GR group. (I’ll be sending out the info for continuing on soon! )It’s a super heartbreaking ending, as to be expected, but very fitting. I wouldn’t really wanted to see it ended any other way.

      Ha Marco was always my least favorite (sorry, buddy). But Rachel *is* scary so that makes sense. She’s way bloodthirsty and really into the war. That’s off putting. I’m way more like Cassie but I guess I enjoy Rachel’s character *because* she’s so unlike me, you know? I’m completely fascinated by how fierce and unrelenting she is. I am very much not fierce and very much relenting. :p And Tobias…jesus christ I should never be let to get started on that guy. All of my feelings forever. All of them. *sobs*
      Kim recently posted…Stitching Snow: Review

      • Elizabeth

        Yeah, my new plan is to buy any Animorphs book I find in used bookstores. (Which admittedly I haven’t seen any in like…at least 5 years. But they’ve got to be going SOMEWHERE right?) so that I have them for whatever kids appear in my family or friends or..anything because I am determined to expose every kid ever to this series haha.

        The good news is that my library definitely has the last few books haha, so I know I can read them. If I ever get the rest of the series in my hands. Here’s hoping I can find something on ILL when I get the chance to figure out the system for that here. (I just moved, and this library system is a complete mess! I miss my old library *sobs*)

        I totally get that – it’s like my obsession with super sassy heroines haha. Gahhhh talking about these characters is bringing back so many memories! LIBRARY. GET YO LIFE.
        Elizabeth recently posted…The Magic Warble – Victoria Simcox

  5. A Canadian Girl

    I grew up reading this series. I remember thinking the first two books were okay but after Tobias – my second favourite character; Rachel was my favourite – got stuck as a hawk, I really got into the series. I’m pretty sure I’ve read most of the books … and there are a lot!

    Lol, I don’t think I was too concerned with romance at the time though ;)

    Thanks for the heads up about Little Women. I’ll have more reading time in December – the amount of papers and presentations I have to do this month is insane! – and so can plan to get a copy in time for the readalong.
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Mini Reviews: The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima and The Young Elites by Marie Lu

    • Kim

      Yeah, the third book just really grabs ahold of you. It establishes the emotional core of the books that, at least for me, made it so compelling. And even as a kid I was nothing but a shameless shipper. What can I say? :p We’re continuing the readalong on Goodreads if you’re interested in ever finishing the series (it’s so worth it)!!

  6. Louise MK

    I’m so sad that I didn’t get a chance to join in on this readalong, because I LOVED these books as a kid. My very first fanfic, a Mary Sue story written with a Lisa Frank pencil in a Lisa Frank notebook in 5th grade (shut up I was like 9 or 10), was based on this series. I never finished the series though — they were “nerd” books and I eventually got tired of being made fun of. ;__;
    Louise MK recently posted…Book Review | Clariel by Garth Nix

    • Kim

      It’s not too late to join in! We’re continuing on in a Goodreads group with the rest of the series. Just add your thoughts to the appropriate book discussion thread. We would LOVE for you to join us!!

      https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/145736-animorphs-readalong-tmg-version

      And you especially need to join us because it is so sad you never finished for being made fun of! What jerks. Your peers did not understand quality and good taste. Come, be amongst your people. Finish Animorphs with us! :D

  7. Brit

    I didn’t read along with you guys but I’ve been looking forward to reading this discussion all month! I am somewhat of a veteran Animorphs reader, I started in 2000 or 2001 and I adored this series. I read the first 20 – 30 books so many times but never finished the series which is something I still want to do. I really enjoyed reading your discussion as the books and characters I loved just came flooding back to me. Maybe its time to get back to my roots (because I consider Animorphs to be the root of my reading experiences today!) and start the Animorphs journey all over again.

    This post was fantastic, loved it! :)
    Brit recently posted…Talon

    • Kim

      Ohhhhhh you have to finish! Books 25-52 were ghostwritten and it seems like a lot of people dropped out of the series around the same time. I thought they were always great, though. I mean, some are better than others but that’s true of the Applegrant written books as well. Please, please join us in the GR group! It’ll take you no time to read the first three and catch up with us. I’ve been enjoying the nostalgia rush so much (and also that they’re just genuinely great books). You won’t regret it! And, plus, if you’re going to re-read Animorphs it’s best to do it in a readalong. We need the support group.

  8. Pili

    Oooookay then! Just finished book 3 and I need chocolate now!! My poor Tobias!! He’s been my fave character, along with Cassie and Rachel, since book 1!! And the poor guy is stuck as a hawk!! *sniffles*

    Also, I’m totally ready to join the GR to continue reading these because I want to know what happens next!!

    Book 1 – I guessed very early on that Tom was one of those taken over and the moment the words The Sharing were part of the conversation… dunno why, but they give me such a BAD feeling, they sound totally cult-aliens-taking-over-like-the-body-snatchers you know? Even if I hadn’t suspected before, The Sharing gives me a baaaad feeling about this. I love how the kids are scared but also think that meeting an alien is cool and they don’t think of judging it because it’s different. Some of the science is a bit dodgy but all in all, a great introduction!

    Book 2 – This book really made me like Rachel so much more! I loved the cat experience and seeing how sharing a mind with an animal while morphing can make you experience their feelings and fear and feel them as yours, that was so well described and the best way to make you stop and think about the whole “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”. Also loved how Melissa’s parents were present and trying to keep her safe as best as they could.

    Book 3 – I felt even worse about poor Tobias, it might seem that the poor guy got a case of “be careful what you wish for…”. But I loved how it really posed the question of what defines being human.

    These are really fast reading books, but they do have a depth that might have not been expected at first, and since Kim says they only get better… I’m totally ready to continue reading the series!
    Pili recently posted…Grim Reaper Week: Seventh Grave And No Body by Darynda Jones – An Excerpt!!

    • Kim

      I am only okay as long as Tobias is okay and Tobias is basically never okay (except when he’s with Rachel) so I am never okay. Also, congrats on having Tobias as a favorite. You are clearly a person of quality. :P

      Yeah, come on. The Sharing is obviously a creepy cult. Being as intensely introverted as I am the mere suggestion of “sharing” my feelings with strangers in a group makes me shudder with revulsion so it’s good to know I would be very resistant to Yeerk recruitment tactics. Also, the good (bad?) news about me with books, especially science fiction, is that I don’t care how well the “science” is supported so I just go along. Haha that’s so bad. Oh well!

      I love Rachel even though we are quite dissimilar. It’s actually probably because she is so fierce and I wish I could on that level. I love living vicariously through her. And, of course, I love that she loves Tobias (WHO WOULDNT). In a lot of ways he is happier as a hawk, though. Poor thing. But he does not belong as a hawk. He belongs as a human with Rachel. OBVIOUSLY. (I’m sorry but my ships make me devolve into all cap sentence fragments).

      I will share the GR group asap! Yayyy. Excited you’re joining us!! The depth, the emotions, the themes…everything just gets more intense and complex. They’re really wonderful books. You’ll be clutching your heart by the end of everything. *sorrowful sigh*

      • Pili

        I totally ship the same ship that you do and also Cassie and Jake!! I feel bad for Marco, but he’s the character that stays more at arms’ lenght for me.

        I’m gonna be getting the next three books for my Kindle next week to be ready for when the GR group starts! Also because I cannot wait to read book 4! ;)
        Pili recently posted…US trip 2014: Chicago, the Windy City!!

  9. Carina Olsen

    Aw! I love this discussion post so so much. <3 You guys are all kinds of awesome. And oh. These books. Now I want to read them so badly! I think I read one many, many years ago, at school sometime, but yeah. I can't remember a single thing, lol. So I think I need to read these books too. Make me so happy that you all loved them :D Cannot wait to one day read them. <3 thank you guys so much for sharing :)
    Carina Olsen recently posted…All Our Yesterdays: Swag Giveaway

    • Layla

      You should go read them! And join us on Goodreads, or wherever we end up continuing this adventure. On the bright side, they are incredibly fun and incredibly quick reads. (And I suspect that even if you did read them as a kid, it’ll be wonderful to return to them with new eyes as an adult.)
      Layla recently posted…Classic MG Discussion: Animorphs

    • Kim

      I’d be shocked to find a person who read Animorphs and did not find it excellent. That is a nonsense person. Don’t be a nonsense person. Join us! I’ll be sharing the Goodreads group link soon! It would take no time to catch up to us. The books are really short! You won’t regret it. :)

  10. Angie

    THE ALIENS ARE SO SCARY. I think I find them even more disturbing as an adult than I did when I was a kid.

    I don’t think I truly appreciated how awesome these were when I first read them. All of the action, the dangerous situations or even the fact that there was no quick-fix for Tobias becoming a hawk. Ten year old Angie just assumed that everybody would be okay by the end of the book and so the danger never really felt real, whereas 28 year old is like HOLY CRAP THESE ARE TERRIFYING WHAT ARE THESE KIDS DOING I HOPE THEY ARE GOING TO BE OKAY.

    The diversity of the main characters really stood out to me as well. 90s kid lit. The characterization is just really great. They are all so realistic and it’s great. I love that Marco is like all HELL NO to putting himself in danger because that’s totally realistic to me (and lets be real would also have been my reaction) ALSO MY SHIPS. I ship Tobias/Rachel like woah. Jake and Cassie are adorable as well.

    The Animorphs had the original Hellmouth, obviously.

    The scene where Rachel is getting harassed scared the hell out of me. She’s just my favorite forever.

    I don’t think I ever finished the series, because I was terrible about keeping up with such things as a kid unless it was Sweet Valley High or The Baby-Sitters Club and sci-fi was just not my thing then, but I will definitely be finishing them now. I NEED TO KNOW ALL THE THINGS.

    AHHHHHH LITTLE WOMEN FOR DECEMBER I AM SO EXCITED. I’m super behind on the challenge but I am going to power through at the end of November and through December when I reread all of the Anne of Green Gables series.
    Angie recently posted…Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

    • Layla

      The descriptions of the Hork-Bajir were freaking me out. At a certain point, I was just like, “Nope, I’m going to have to stop imagining this, because no. I get that they are gentle pacifists but rn they are killing machines.” Ugh, and the Taxxons. Gross.

      Yeah, I was really conscious of that this time too – I really worried about whether everyone was going to make it to the end ok. Seriously, Book 3! As a kid, I think I would have been too interested in the adventure to notice that, like, they’re infiltrating secret alien meetings where they could DIE. Or when they do things out of the goodness of their hearts that also blow their cover (freeing the lady!hawk, for example).

      (I would also be a Marco. Or maybe a more Slytherin Marco. I want to fight, but I want to think about doing it sneakily.)

      I am also really stoked to read Little Women again BUT also omg Anne of Green Gables. There was a nice article on The Toast about Rilla of Ingleside recently, did you see it?
      Layla recently posted…Classic MG Discussion: Animorphs

      • Kim

        Non-Contoller Hork-Bajir are the actual cutest and sweetest, though. There’s actually a spin off series called The Hork-Bajir Chronicles though I haven’t read them.

        There’s also a really great TobiasxRachel Hork-Bajir gender swap morph. No this is not a fanfic. Actual canon. These books are just a delight.

    • Kim

      The aliens are the freaking worst. Well, the Yeerks, I mean. Both as their usual gross slug selves and also Visser Three with his evil Andalite morphing presence. And also how the

      I’m quickly becoming just as obsessed with them as an adult as I was when I was a kid, Angie. Though there’s so much more I can understand and appreciate now. As a kid I was basically like “This is cool! Kids fighting aliens and morphing into animals!” And also a lot of Tobias feels because those were always there let’s be honest.

      I was just reading an AMA that Katherine Applegate did on Reddit and she said Tobias had to get stuck to make the two hour limit real to readers. But also that she thinks he was happier that way in the end since his life before was really terrible. (I sort of enjoy when authors speak about their characters not in definites as though the reality of the character isn’t 100% controlled by them. She “thinks”!!!) Well, it served its purpose. Heartbreaking. And establishes upfront that the series is not afraid to go to hard places and make sacrifices. Both of those things just get more intense and heartbreaking as the series goes on.

      Yeah, I just really love all these kids. I love that the books switch POV character and so you get to experience each through the eyes of the other and different animal morphs through different characters. And I love that they were written to show the different ways that people approach war/battle and how it affects them.

      From the same AMA Applegate said:

      “…that some soldiers would find joy in it (Rachel,) some would find a sort of addiction (Jake,) some would hate it but do their best, (Cassie,) some would sail right through, (Marco,) and others would be the victims left behind, (Tobias.)”

      I’m most like a Cassie, I think. Nah, I’d probably just run away and hide. Not even brave enough to soldier through.

      DON’T GET ME STARTED ABOUT SHIPPING RACHEL/TOBIAS. I am not okay. Plllleeeeease join us in reading the rest of the series. I’ll have a the Goodreads group all set up and ready to go soon. I’ll send you the link as soon as it’s ready. We need to cry together because these books. These books!

      Oh and the Animorphs did have the original hellmouth!! The Invasion predates Buffy. :)

  11. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    I haven’t read these yet, but I’m blown away by your enthusiasm! It’s great to hear how much these books affected you, whether as new readers or on re-reading. Today I’m featuring one of my great enthusiasms, Diana Wynne Jones, with the book I consider her masterpiece, Fire and Hemlock — and I’ll keep going all week long as “Witch Week” continues. I hope you’ll check it out!
    Lory @ Emerald City Book Review recently posted…Witch Week Day One: Fire and Hemlock (Guest Post)

  12. Tina

    Wohoo Animorphs! I had so much fun reading this post, and it brought back fond memories of the series. I started reading this in 5th grade after my best friend lent me his copy of #4, and then I got hooked after that. I loved this series so much that I made so many websites and wrote fanfiction, too. :D I also wanted to be one of them; never mind if they’re really fighting a war because turning into animals = amazing!

    There was a time when I was cleaning my room, and I decided to let go of some of my old books. After I had put my Sweet Valley books in a box, I started on Animorphs…then I realized I couldn’t bear to let go of them, so now the box is still here. Now I want to dig it up so I can reread them!
    Tina recently posted…Hello, my book is out

    • Kim

      Yay! I’m glad you had fun! We had a lot of fun reading too. Although, I was also busy getting punched in the heart by Tobias feels.

      It’s just the best when books have such a hold on you that you have to dive into fandom. Ha, that’s happening to me a little bit right now with the re-discovery of Animorphs for me! *surreptitiously closes tab open to fan art* I did not even remotely have internet when I first read these books as a kid but I can only imagine how much more obsessed I would have been if I had!

      Aaaand I just today learned that Katherine Applegate actually ghostwrote for Sweet Valley Twins so this explains many things about my love for those books! Funnily enough, once I discovered Animorphs my interest in SVT waned in favor of the former. It all makes sense now. :D And you’re lucky to have them all! They’re hard to get ahold of. I don’t have any of mine from growing up. My mom was always making me get rid of my books. Sad, sad, sad.

  13. Pili

    I still haven’t finished reading them, I’m almost done with book 2 and will be starting book 3, and I have to agree, I SO WOULD HAVE DEVOURED this books as a kid!! I’ve always been a huge fan of science fiction and these would have been like the Holy Grail for me!!

    So yeah, BRB later today once I’m done with them all! I’ve been trying to catch up with a lot of stuff after my vacation and I feel like I’m failing at everything!

    Happy Halloween/Samhain ladies!!
    Pili recently posted…Grim Reaper Week: Seventh Grave And No Body by Darynda Jones – An Excerpt!!

    • Kim

      Ahhhhhhh Pili! You have to read Book 3 and then come back here ASAP so that we can cry together. I already can barely stand how emotional these books are making me and it only gets deeper.

      And better late than never, you know? At least you’re getting to them now. :) Go, go! Read Book 3 and then get back here!
      Kim recently posted…Classic MG Discussion: Animorphs

  14. Rachel

    I have a LOT of thoughts – I wrote a college in paper comparing Rachel to Katniss (the first three books here and the Hunger Games trilogy – pre-THG movie explosion) and their PTSD/downward spiral of violence (this is actually not spoilery because I’m pretty sure you could guess it). The Hunger Games was edited by David Levithan and the reboot of Animorphs was pushed by David Levithan, which I find really interesting. (I also find a lot of Tobias/Peeta parallels.)

    I think what captured me the most was how real everything felt about this series. I started when I was 8 or 9 and stopped at 12 (then re-found at 14 the end of the series and read the last book), but yet it felt like the stories could take place in MY hometown. I really liked that sort of ambiguous setting, thought it was relatable. I think the diversity was really strong for that time period and I wish that these books were still popular so we could push them onto all the kids who feel alone. Like, “HERE! Here you get to save the world!” I also was impressed that Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant (because “K.A.” was really two people and then a handful of ghostwriters later) wrote truthfully re: violence, PTSD, and war realities toward the end (NO SPOILERS I PROMISE. ISH.). I remember that they’d come out with a letter to all the fans who complained that the ending was happy and roses, saying that *war* wasn’t.

    I’ve also read Michael and Katherine’s books after they stopped co-writing and then reread Animorphs. (Gone, The One & Only Ivan, Home of the Brave, BZRK, Messenger of Fear) It’s really interesting to see what line was definitely what writer. (It’s also funny to meet them and then reread the books because Marco=definitely Michael and Katherine= definitely Cassie. Yes, all the Marco/Cassie shippers can unite… wait, where there any??)

    • Rachel

      Um, that should say that the series ended on a NOT happy/roses note. It was a very…dark ending.

    • Kim

      Hee and we are so happy for your thoughts. Honestly, I’m happy for anyone to talk to/at me about Animorphs for any reason. :D

      I totally see what you’re saying. When I was writing on how these books go on to touch on the most serious parts of and repercussions of war I flashed briefly to THG in my head. There really are a lot of parallels and I was not away of the David Levithan connection before so thank you! It certainly gave me pause. I am so, so happy they were reissued. Though I do find the covers to be blasphemy. Oh well.

      Did you see this incredible write up on Tor from a few months back?

      http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/08/animorphs-why-the-series-rocked-and-why-you-should-still-care

      Anyway, I feel like these books should never not be in print. Kids need them! I know for me they were mind expanding and completely changed my taste in literature to include science fiction. And there’s so much more going on than I ever even realized as a kid (like the feminist messaging) but it’s so important that it’s there.

      You’ve really touched on something with the relatability. I remember having that exact same feeling as a kid. And yes, yes, yes to the diversity! Representation is so, so important and this story is so high quality and full of important themes and lessons. Like, I said they should never be out of print! Ugh, it hurts my heart.

      And I am also impressed with how truthfully war and its repercussions are portrayed. But also depressed as hell, because damn. These books really, really hurt my heart. I just came across that letter on Tumblr the other day and can’t mention specifics because that would be spoilery and it was so spot on. I’m quoting it below with spoilers removed for any interested parties

      “So, you don’t like the way our little fictional war came out? *******************************************? You don’t like that one war simply led to another? Fine. Pretty soon you’ll all be of voting age, and of draft age. So when someone proposes a war, remember that even the most necessary wars, even the rare wars where the lines of good and evil are clear and clean, end with a lot of people dead, a lot of people crippled, and a lot of orphans, widows and grieving parents.”

      So yeah. Are the books often bleak? Yeah. Do they get scary with blurring of the lines between “good” and “evil?” Yup. But so does life and so does war. I love these books so much.

      Ha I didn’t know until quite recently that “K.A” was really Katherine and Michael Grant. If I had known this when I met him at BEA last year there would have been much freaking out!!

  15. Brenda

    I’m new to the Animorphs series, but I’m pretty sure that if I had read this when I was a kid I would have really loved it. I picked up the first two, but after reading your review will have to find the next in the series. Tobias…yeah have to read that one. The thing I really loved was how well thought out the morph’s were, all the details and research that seemed to go into it. Plus, the changing point of views in each story. Rachel made me feel scared when she turned into a shrew, you really get a sense of that animals thinking. Man and the cat description with Clint Eastwood, so on point with that, loved it! Thanks for suggesting the series, I’ll be continuing on and if you get something up on Goodreads I’ll be looking out for it too. Happy Halloween ladies!
    Brenda recently posted…Animorphs The Invasion by K.A. Applegate for the Classic MG Read along with the Midnight Garden

    • Kim

      I’m so glad you joined in and read these, Brenda! They’re clearly a huge, huge favorite of mine from childhood and I’m so relieved to be loving them just as much as an adult! And I’m especially pleased that newbies like you are being introduced to the series. :)

      You MUST read Book 3. It really ups the level of quality across the board for the series. Maximum feels, I promise. And I’m probably forming a support group so we can all be there for each other. Gah.

      Yes! I love the morphs. Especially when the characters are morphing a new animal for the first time and you get to experience their battle with the animal brain. I wonder what it would be like to be an Andalite morphing human for the first time and what that brain battle would be like! Interesting, interesting…

      I’m so glad you’re continuing on! Keep your eyes peeled here or on Twitter for when we get the GoodReads group set up!