(Previously on this Livejournal: Thoroughbred || Boxcar Children)
Animorphs is a sci-fi series that I began reading sometime in 5th grade, age 10 or 11, when it was still new. Upon encountering it in Scholastic book order catalogs, I originally thought the series looked really dumb. I was never that fond of sci-fi, and people turning into animals hardly qualifies as an "animal story" in my books, despite what people assumed when they pushed it on me.
However, my best friend insisted the books were good, and because I always trusted her taste, I started reading them too and was very quickly hooked.
I don't recall if I actually started with book 1 or book 6 or one in between, but book 6 is the one I most closely associate with triggering my unstoppable crush on Jake*. Good job @ cover model choosing, because that combined with the text was a doozy. Especially impressive given my ability to ignore everything after the first photo, where he's morphing into a fly.
(*the exact level of unstoppable crush is: I based my sim character Kat's future son-in-law on this character. Which has been a moderate thorn in my side ever since, because i stopped being enthralled by him long ago, but the characters had 3 kids by the time that happened and I could no more mentally change his appearance than I could write him out of the world, so I'm stuck with him.)
Of course, it's Cassie I loved the most, because she loved animals (do you see a theme in my early book character identifying?) and her mom was a vet. I wanted to be her as much as I wanted to be her friend, so naturally I was shipping Jake and Cassie before I knew what shipping was, and a not-that-small part of me looked forward to any sweet moments between them.
I didn't like Rachel at first -- she was too much the epitome of talky-talk girls with too many friends and too grown-up interests like shopping that I instinctively recoiled from -- but she definitely grew on me. I was neutral about Tobias at first, but eventually he wound up being close behind Jake and Cassie in terms of favorites, and the budding romance between them eventually grew to steal my heart. (not away from Jake and Cassie. this heart was big enough for two ocean liners).
I never warmed up to Marco, who was and remains in my heart to this day a cocky loser; my primary mental image of him is of a little shrimp who acts like he's way cooler and more desirable than he is. I never really liked Ax the Andalite, either. He was useful and sometimes funny, but his constant I Can't Even Handle It reaction to human things / words / concepts got really old. And his human morph, from what I recall, was a nightmare.
Even though this series didn't change my mind about sci-fi, I have to admit that the Yeerks are a pretty sinister villain concept, and to be honest, there is still a small part of me that thinks about them being real (the most horrifying part isn't even being imprisoned in your own brain, it's the idea of a jerk rifling through your most embarrassing thoughts/memories and taunting you about them) (also I guess it'd be bad if, like, they took over world leaders and stuff. Or maybe that's how we got President Trump. Who can say). Like the way some people fear zombies. They're not real and there is no logical way they ARE or ever could be real, but I'm still scared of them. Yeerks, not zombies.
Anyway, by the time I was 6-8 books in, it had become my favorite series. While I may have accidentally stumbled upon a bit of Power Rangers fanfiction before this, this is really what got me into reading fanfiction. It's definitely how I found fanfiction.net (courtesy of the aforementioned best friend introducing me to it), not that I can remember a single story I read. I daydreamed about the characters all the time.
I went on message boards, too, and I remember some basic games you could download -- there's one where you play as Jake trying to collect keys and avoid Yeerks, for example. Oh, and of course, AOL chat rooms. Duh-doi. I can't believe I almost forgot how central AOL was to the first, like, ten years of my internet life.
Also, this also might be the only childhood series I ever finished. My interest was fading fast by the end of it, at age 15, but once an end was in sight I had to know how it went down.
Finally, I do have some specific memories of these books that I'd like to write down before the memories disappear forever, so...TITLE BY TITLE WE GO. The ones I remember, anyway. With help from Goodreads reviews if I feel like taking the time to read any, but mostly just my gut reactions to seeing the covers.
Shortcut: The Animorphs Series on Goodreads
1. The Invasion: Nope, I have no actual memory of how it kicked off.
2. The Visitor (Rachel): The thing that makes me think I started with a later book is my faint memory of reading this and thinking it reminded me of how I felt about pre-season-5 episodes of The X-Files -- like a prequel, an interesting origin story or precursor to the real stuff. But I also remember thinking that putting a cat on the cover was way better than a dumb lizard, like book 1.
3. The Encounter (Tobias): Damn, threw in the nothlit stuff earlier than I remember. Nothlits are another concept I never forgot about.
4. The Message (Cassie): Between the narrator and the vision dreams, this book was my second favorite in the early days. I loved it so much that I definitely, um...may have kept the library's copy without checking it out, in the days before they installed security tags and secure entrances to set them off. Periodically I feel guilty about this and stuff an extra dollar or two in the library sale cart's cash box without buying anything.
5. The Predator (Marco): It's Marco, so I already can't imagine remembering anything that happened in it. However, this book did establish a permanent mental picture of him for me, with the chin-length hair, even though he has a lot of different looks on the covers throughout the series.
6. The Capture (Jake): as previously mentioned, this was my favorite for a good long while. The summary mentions something about Jake having to be held captive to kill the Yeerk in his head, which was also busy taunting him if I recall, so I'm feeling like this either hit upon or started some emotional whump predilections for me.
7. The Stranger (Rachel): I feel like this is a decent Rachel book, but I also remember having an early and wise aversion to the Ellimist's introduction.
7.5. The Andalite's Gift (Megamorphs 1): Ooh! I remember getting a copy of this from Scholastic book orders. I do not remember its content, but according to Wikipedia it was published in May 1997, which confirms I was reading the series by that point.
8. The Alien (Ax): I will admit, his introduction is decent. I think if I reread it, I'd get hammered with recognition of a lot of his quotes. I can't remember any specifically right now, but I know there were a lot of memorable lines. Marco has decent ones here too, I think. [edit: OH MAN is this the one where he meets cinnamon buns at a mall and goes absolutely hog-wild? that was amazing, actually]
edit: HOW COULD I FORGET THE CROWNING OF "PRINCE JAKE."
9. The Secret (Cassie): Awww yiss Cassie as a wolf! This is one of the books I still have and I think it might have been the first my parents bought me? (edit: no, I think that was book 7 -- book 9 was the first bought from a bookstore, though, I think) I remember it having a forest theme and Cassie's barn being very central to this one.
10. The Android (Marco): Erek...THE CHEE? AS IN, "THE CHEE DATABASE" MESSAGE BOARD? I'd almost forgotten about him / the name of that message board of original Animorphs fans turned teen and college-age people who helped steal my best friend away from me but also helped keep me in the loop about her life after we stopped being friends, for a while.
Sorry about totally ignoring the book content to go into memory lane there, but in my defense, it's a Marco book.
11. The Forgotten (Jake):
EDIT: I found some quotes and I definitely remember them. And, while the jaguar morph cover should have clued me in, I also now remember that there is a LOT of time spent in a rain forest during this wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey adventure.
“Did we go forward or back? Are we in the past or the future?”
< Yes > Ax said. < It’s definitely one of those two choices. >and this one from Rachel:
“This is the rain forest everyone wants to save? Ants and piranha and snakes and bugs the size of rats? Well, as far as I’m concerned they can burn it down, pave it over, and put up malls and convenience stores!”
12. The Reaction (Rachel): I have this one too (and the next two). Rachel's morphs going haywire due to some kind of DNA allergy -- I do have a vague memory of that. OH! Also, I just looked it up and this book is where one of my all-time favorite Cassie quotes (about her uncool mom) comes from: See, she’ll think she has to be cool and all. She’ll start talking about ‘The Fudgies’, or ’Snoopy Diggity Dog,’ or ’Boys Eleven Men,’ or ’Nice Is Neat.’”
I read this before I had ever heard of Boyz II Men, and so I have never really called them by their proper name. They are Boys Eleven Men 2 me 5eva. (honestly, I'm not sure I had heard of Snoop Dogg either -- because i definitely do not remember him ever being called Doggy Dog -- but while I made that transition easily...in my heart, he will always a little bit be Snoopy Diggity Dog)
Bonus rest of quote, courtesy of a fun blog I just tripped over:
I laughed out loud, practically spraying Mountain Dew from my nose. “Okay, The Fugees, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Boyz II Men I get. But what’s Nice Is Neat?”
Cassie looked guilty. “NIN. You know, Nine Inch Nails? I wanted to get the new CD but I was broke, so I told my mom NIN stood for Nice Is Neat.”
13. The Change (Tobias): THIS ONE WAS SO GOOD. And heartbreaking. I hope this is the right book I'm thinking of, and not a later one -- it very well might be book 23, actually -- but it healed my heart a little bit when he was[spoiler cut!]able to morph back to human form, if not actually be one,and either way, this is definitely the book where his backstory and hard choices made me love him and also probably launched my Rachel/Tobias ship, if it had not started already.
14. The Unknown (Cassie): Awww yiss Cassie as a horse! Sneakin' into
15. The Escape (Marco): I think I remember Marco being less terrible and more sympathetic than usual in this one.
16. The Warning (Jake): I don't remember this book AT ALL...yet I own it. Wait -- hang on, I DO remember this Jake/Cassie scene.
Cassie looked at me and shook her head. ‘What is the matter with you? You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to prove how tough you are.’
'It’s not a problem, Cassie. Thanks, but let it go, okay?’
'Jake, you may have the others fooled, but not me. You’re scared. And you have good reason to be scared. So what’s the big deal?’
“'Look, Space-boy, this is the fastest modem around, okay?’ Marco said defensively. ‘Fifty-six thousand bits per second.’
[I don't remember book 17, nor do I own it.]
19. The Departure (Cassie): oh man. I own this and the memory is faint, but I feel like I definitely had a hysterical meltdown when I read the summary, thinking I was going to lose my favorite character, and my (probably annoyed, wiser) best friend had to talk me down, possibly through AIM, off my ledge. Also, I am gonna sit here and hope that this book had some really good Jake/Cassie moments, because with a plot like that how could it not. I definitely remember her talking to the Yeerk in the child, though.
20. The Discovery (Marco): DAVID U JERK. Love to hate him! Definitely have some concrete memories of a time-delayed email about something going out.
21. The Threat (Jake): First of all, please know that this cover both doubled down on my decision to marry a version of him off to my sim character's daughter, and made me chuckle about the fact that I had previously created a Golden Retriever named Jake for the original sim character. Second of all, I own this one and I remember it being a pretty good continuation of the David trilogy.
22. The Solution (Rachel): Own this one too. I know some people think this was really horrifying and dark, but I thought the title subject was an awesome one. I personally was gunning for "kill him while he's in rat form," though, so.[Spoiler (click to open)]
"Abandoned on an island trapped in rat form" is the less violent but arguably crueler way to go. Either way, fine by me.
22.5. The Hork-Bajir Chronicles: I actually owned a hardcover copy of this at one point, and I remember liking it -- I really liked the Hork-Bajir, even though prior to this book cover I had basically pictured them as faceless brown slugs with arms and legs -- but I got rid of it yeeeears ago when I decided it was not crucial to my enjoyment of the series.
23.The Pretender (Tobias): OH MAN. I remember a part of this one so well, where Tobias hunts a baby rabbit and explains, in a way I'd never considered, that while most people wish he'd at least kill the adult rabbit, it's significantly crueler to kill the mother, which would doom all the babies to death by starvation or other mishaps without their protector. I also remember this being a doozy of a backstory reveal and super-cementing my love for this poor kid. I own this one.
24. The Suspicion (Cassie): Oh lol the Helmacrons. The worst Lilliputians. They're so trerrible and yet I kind of want to relive this cracktastic storyline? (I own this one too)
25. The Extreme (Marco): don't remember this one but apparently I own it.
26. The Attack (Jake): Is this the one that is basically an out-of-time-and-space chess game? I know I own a copy... Iskort & Crayak & Howler are familiar-sounding words. Also HOLD THE PHONE, A GOODREADS REVIEW JUST SAID THIS IS THE FIRST ONE WHERE JAKE AND CASSIE KISS. OK, I don't remember that scene off the top of my head but I do remember that I was ecstatic at whatever point in the series that happened, which I guess was here, so yeah. Glad I own this.
FUN FACT: I just located my copy and can now confirm that Mom bought it at K-Mart, discounted to $3.74 from its list price of $4.99. Ironically, that is still the price I would have to pay today to order a single secondhand volume online (more reasons to miss cheap used book sales, tbh). Would you like another Fun Fact? Minimum wage in 1999 was $5.15/hr, so it is possible the price of paperbacks has remained relatively stable with respect to inflation.
27. The Exposed (Rachel): I own this, but don't remember it. Goodreads says something about the Chee.
28. The Experiment (Ax): Don't remember, don't own.
29. The Sickness (Cassie): I cannot BELIEVE I can't remember "Cassie performs brain surgery on Ax before he dies" in a book where everyone but my favorite character is also sick, but I don't. I know I've read it, though. I found an old list in a notebook confirming I owned it at one point.
29.5. Elfangor's Secret (Megamorphs 3): I vaguely feel like I read this...?
30. The Reunion (Marco): Don't remember, don't own
31. The Conspiracy (Jake): Oh boy I wish I could remember this one. It looks really good, and I do own it.
32. The Separation (Rachel): lmao, the starfish morph = THE MY TWO RACHELS. This was such a zany plot. I can't even remember how it ends but I definitely remember the wild, out of control Rachel. I own this one too.
33. The Illusion (Tobias): I own this and don't remember it but EXCUSE ME @ THIS REVIEW?? GIVE IT TO ME NOW. (I say...perfectly capable of getting up and getting it out of the box): "The grimness of this series shouldn't still surprise me, but given that this book is 50% literal Tobias-torture, it does."
34. The Prophecy (Cassie): Ooh! Cassie morphing as a specific Hork-Bajir? I do remember the name Aldrea. More importantly, a review says there is Kissing so I'm good. Or would be if I owned this book. Dammit!
35. The Proposal (Marco): I...can't swear that I have read this.
36. The Mutation (Jake): ooh, I remember this too. the TERRIFYING UNDERWATER PEOPLE...
Don't think I read book 37, so...
38. The Arrival (Ax): Yet another fun fact: published February 2000, this is the last book in the series I bought, which puts me in 8th grade, which sounds about right because anime had started taking over the fandom part of my brain at that point. I vaguely recall meeting the other Andalites, but only in a way where I'd recognize lines if I read them. (edit: yup, like this -- "Prince Jake threw a horse comb at Marco that Marco dodged. Marco and Prince Jake are best friends. This sort of behavior appears to be typical of male friendships.”)
From here on out, it gets very fuzzy.
39. The Hidden (Cassie): Maybe I read this? Looks like there are more Helmacrons. Cassie as a water buffalo looks vaguely familiar, and you wouldn't think I'd miss a Cassie book, but I just don't know.
40. The Other (Marco): My 9th grade reading list says I read this!! I don't remember it. I rated it 2 stars, so I'm not surprised. You can actually watch my enthusiasm draining at this point.
40.5. Back to Before (Megamorphs 4): I wasn't kidding. ONE STAR. One. (But why?? this sounds kind of neat??)
41-42 are missing from the record, but they were published before 9th grade so maybe I just don't remember.
43. The Test (Tobias): Reading list says 1.5 stars. OUCH.
44. The Unexpected (Cassie): I do not think i read this, because boy does Cassie randomly waking up in the Australian Outback on her own sound like an awesome adventure!
Didn't read 45.
46. The Deception (Ax): There is a lot of war talk in this summary. It does not sound good. Indeed, the reading list says 2 stars, but also how was this better than book 43, self.
Didn't read 47.
47.5. The Ellimist Chronicles: You're gonna laugh but the 2.5 stars I gave this is actually an improvement. I do at least vaguely recall the content of this one, though I will not dispute my original rating.
48. The Return (Rachel): I definitely did not read this one because WHAT DO U MEAN DAVID IS BACK. How! Why! What happened! Do you at least kill him this time??
49. The Diversion (Tobias): Oh thank god, this one got all the way up to 3 stars. (maybe because I read it after books 50-52, in July)
50. The Ultimate (Cassie): I apparently read this one and the next two all in a row one day in April 2001. 2 stars.
51. The Absolute (Marco): 2.5 stars
52. The Sacrifice (Ax): 2 stars. In case it was not clear, I remember nothing from any of these. The war and political ramifications are evidently ramping up, though, which have never been strong attraction points to me in fiction.
AND IN THE END....
I read 53 & 54, The Answer and The Beginning -- the last 2 in the series -- on October 29th, 2001. The one year anniversary of launching myself into X-Files fandom with both feet, which I'm sure I did on symbolic purpose, paying homage to the old as I closed that chapter and continued on with a new one.
The best friend and I were pretty much no longer on speaking terms at this point, though we were still technically in the same small online RPG/sim horse club and I was following her personal blog, so I'm sure I read her reactions since she read to the end too. Of course, I don't remember said reactions, and I failed to give these books ratings on my reading list, so IDK what my overall reaction was like either.
I do remember some of my takeaway feelings, though, so here goes:
[Real spoilers y'all, mostly about where the characters ended up.]-I was UPSET!! about Rachel, y'all. I felt betrayed on a core level. Main characters simply did not die in books. That was against the rules.
-The one specific detail I remember, I think, is something about Tobias morphing to human and crying for her. I want to believe I'm making that up and that he did not watch her die (from another room through a window? or on a video screen maybe?), but I don't think I am.
I seem to remember Tobias flying away to live as a hawk forever after that, which felt terrible, but not too terrible because if he stayed a hawk, maybe he'd completely forget he had ever been or known anyone else.
ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATED at Jake and Cassie breaking up because the war broke him. Way worse than Rachel dying.
Still kind of haunted by how messed up Jake ended up. Like, it made me feel bad in my soul for months afterwards when I would randomly remember it. In hindsight, and maybe even then-sight, I understand, but it HURTS.
I don't actually remember how they defeated the Yeerks or if any of their family members died or how Marco and Ax turned out (I truly Did Not Care about them, huh), and I'm going to let that stay a mystery for Future Me in case she ever rereads this series.
Anyway, that's the story of me and the Animorphs. A series I am in no great hurry to reread, but might someday.