Blast from the Past: Remembering and Revisiting the Animorphs series
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 00:09
Almost everyone born in the ‘90s has read Animorphs. Most of them probably weren’t hardcore people who read all 54 main books along with all the tie-ins like I was, but I can guarantee that at one point in all our childhoods we stumbled upon a book that had some kid turning into some weird animal on the cover.
Yeah, those books were Animorph books.
On paper, Animorphs was virtually indistinguishable from some of the other “Wake up, go to school, save the world” stories that were so popular in the ‘90s. A bunch of kids run into a dying alien one night, he tells of an invasion instigated by a group of less friendly aliens and gives them the power to turn into animals and kick alien butt after school: same old same old.
In practice, though, the series went a little differently. The early books did have an episodic feel to them, sure, but as the story went on it began to get more complicated. It stopped being just about Animorphs v. Yeerks as more players were thrown into the game. As the end of the series approached, the small skirmishes between the kids and the enemy turned into an all-out war.
Really, the Animorphs series had everything a kid could want: interesting characters, rising stakes, and the belief that we could definitely save the world if only our parents would let us skip school once in a while. More importantly, it instilled in some of us a healthy sense of…
“We can’t tell you who we are. Or where we live.”
“So we don’t trust anyone. Because if they find us…”
The basic premise of Animorphs is that a group of early teens had to fight against parasitic slugs that could possess anyone without people noticing any difference. For adults who might have chanced upon the book, it was an interesting concept. For imaginative kids, it meant that along with trying to figure out exactly where places like Hogwarts and Narnia were, we were also terrified that one day our parents and the government would be replaced by slimy creatures.
Animorphs didn’t stop there, though. It quickly becomes obvious that author K. A. Applegate has no qualms whatsoever with depicting moral gray areas and disturbing themes in a series targeted toward children. Each main character is Pandora’s Box of personality defects and neuroses that are only exacerbated by the trauma of war. Applegate makes it clear that the heroes of the story are essentially child soldiers, and must make dubious moral decisions (such as committing genocide) in order to simply survive. Nor are the aftereffects of battles ignored, as nearly all the characters suffer from some sort of PTSD by the end.
Overall, the Animorphs series was an excellent adventure series and an even better deconstruction of an adventure series. Next time you swing by the local library, maybe pick one up—for nostalgia, or perhaps to discover something new.