Hi. My name is Gay. Just Gay, no last name.
And I love reading. In my twenty-two years alive, I have always found comfort and company in books. I love the smell of them, the feeling of holding them to my chest when I read a particularly intense chapter, I love the essence that the authors leave in their books — the ghosts that float along pages, preserving the authors’ spirit within. Books have proven to be my most reliable friends in all the successes and struggles of my life.
That is the reason why I want to talk about Animorphs. This series, written by Katherine Applegate and her husband, Michael Grant, sparked my interest in books. The Animorphs is about a group of teenagers who have the ability to turn into any animal they touch who are fighting a parasitic alien species called the Yeerks who plan on taking over Earth and its inhabitants. There’s so much more to the story but that’s basically the gist of it.
I believe I was in fourth grade; it was a normal day at school, except I noticed one of my classmates reading a book with a peculiar cover. Like a cat, I stalked towards them and asked to see the cover.
Before I knew what had happened, I was already a quarter into the book. I felt guilty for borrowing the book almost the entire day at school, but I had zero regrets. The book that my classmate had brought was Megamorphs 2: In the Time of Dinosaurs. Amazing how memory works, right? I can remember that day so clearly, but I can’t even remember what the current month is.
My classmate brought a different Animorphs book every day, and I tried my best to respectfully borrow all of them in the limited time we had in class hours. I had become obsessed with the books. Rachel was my favorite character back then, and I remember my classmate saying how ironic it was that I would like the character that resembled me the most.
I just liked that she was both beautiful and strong.
Soon enough, I found myself scouring some secondhand book stores for copies of Animorphs. I even had my mother help me find more when she was out of town for work. For years, until my college years, I’ve tried to finish the puzzle that is the Animorphs series. If I’m lucky, I find one piece of the puzzle every month, but sadly, I have never gone close to completing the set. As of today, I have 49 books total, including a few of the spin-offs and some duplicates. I’ve learned to accept that this puzzle will never be completed.
I’m grateful for e-books, though. They’re the only reason I managed to read the entire series.
(Is it obvious enough how much I adore this series? No? Okay, here goes…)
Aside from the bizarre aliens, the adventures, the 90s references, it was the characters that really pulled me into the Animorphs universe.
Jake, the strong and reliable leader — having to grow up overnight to act as the leader of the Animorphs. I empathized with him the most. He was thrust into the war so suddenly, and he did his best to save his friends and family, along with the planet. I will avoid mentioning any spoilers, in case you plan on reading the series. Jake was an admirable character, and his development throughout the series will cut deeply that you’ll actually feel the weight he had on his shoulders.
And there’s Rachel, the brave and fearless warrior under the guise of a supermodel-esque blonde. Also, Jake’s cousin. Rachel had most of the traits you’d assume of a typical blonde — she loved shopping and cared a little too much about her image. But that’s where the stereotype ends. Rachel is far from the “dumb blonde” trope. First of all, she’s definitely not dumb. Second, she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. Literally. This girl is a born warrior during a battle.Always the first to jump in and attack. Her catchphrase is “Let’s do it!”, to the annoyance of her fellow Animorph, Marco, who gave her the nickname “Xena: Warrior Princess.” It’s pretty clear why I took a liking to her character as a young girl. I wished I was as strong and confident and beautiful as her — and I still do.
Next is Marco. Jake’s best friend. As a young girl, I didn’t like Marco that much. His character was that of a class clown, and a ladies’ man. He reminded me of the class clowns in my grade many years ago. I had no tolerance for boys like him. However, like the other characters, he eventually wormed his way into my heart. His insecurity, his pessimism, his use of humor as a coping mechanism shockingly mirrored the kind of person I am today. Despite all of the terrible things he’s witnessed in the war, he still provided the comedic relief to lighten the mood of an otherwise overwhelming mission. Honestly speaking, our world right now is a terrible place, and we could really use having a Marco around.
Cassie. I’ll go ahead and say that I did not like Cassie at all when I first started reading Animorphs, even though she was Rachel’s best friend. There wasn’t a good reason for it. Twelve-year-old me just refused to relate and sympathize with her character. But now I can see how stupid and naïve I was. As kids, we’re hardwired to never listen to reason. And Cassie was the voice of reason in the group. Now that I can look back on the past, older and, dare I say, wiser (still up for debate) — I realize how stubborn and selfish I was. Cassie wouldn’t have approved. She was the heart of the group, and loved her friends so much even when they disagree on opinions most of the time. Her role as the “mom” of the group was almost as hard as Jake’s role as leader. I would even say that Cassie was stronger than Rachel. War can make demons out of angels, but Cassie remained an angel despite being bathed in blood. You’d have to have a heart of steel to avoid giving in to the evils of war. Cassie remained true to herself until the very end, and I admired that very much.
Tobias — the bird-boy, the rat killer, the troubled kid, the soft one. Tobias was human at the beginning of the series. But we’re only shown a few moments with him as one. At the end of the first book, The Invasion, Tobias got trapped in his red-tailed hawk, having spent more than two hours in morph during his escape from their very first mission. It’s impossible not to feel sorry for the guy. He was orphaned, raised by his abusive uncle and dismissive aunt, bullied in school, got swept into the Yeerk war, and lost his human body on their first mission. He had a rough life. Normal people would have caved in and gone insane at the thought of being stuck in the body of a hawk and eating rats for the rest of their lives. But not Tobias. In fact, him being stuck in hawk morph was what triggered his personal growth. As a human, he was prey; as a hawk, he was the predator. The tables turned, and living as a hawk made him a stronger human. He’s still human inside, but he’s no longer the weak boy that used to get his head stuck in a toilet by bullies. I never want to reference a meme in any of my stories, but Tobias’ character development is basically the Dark Kermit meme. Tobias is still Tobias, but stronger.
Last, and definitely, absolutely, not the least. There’s Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill, also known as Ax. Ax was the last core member of the Animorphs to be introduced in the series. He’s also the only alien. Ax was the younger brother of Elfangor — the Andalite who gave his life just to give the Animorphs the ability to morph. It was by pure chance that Aximili ended up crashing on Earth and meeting the Animorphs via their mutual connection to Elfangor. Through Ax, we find out more about the Andalites. They’re the “good guys” in the universe, the ones who were supposed to be fighting the Yeerks to save Earth. Being the only Andalite in the group, Ax was definitely the most interesting character. In a way, he was a mix of all the characters’ traits.
He had Jake’s brain for planning and his determination to take back what the Yeerks took from him; Rachel’s eagerness to get into battle and her fearlessness when it comes to facing the enemy; he also had Marco’s insecurity and was also a good source of comedic relief during missions due to his fascination with human culture and nearly destructive obsession with food. He didn’t have much in common with Cassie, but they’re both very loyal to their beliefs and values. They both felt uncomfortable when forced to do something that’s completely against their values, but saw the necessity in doing it. And Tobias…Ax considered him his true shorm — a word that means true friend back in the Andalite homeworld. Both of them share the feeling of loneliness, of being the odd one in the group, and this made their bond stronger than anything.
The Animorphs are a unique group of people, that’s for sure. Maybe that’s why the series always felt fresh to me. There are more than fifty books in the series, including spin-offs, and each of them can stand on their own. We cycle through every character and read their thoughts and emotions during whatever mission they’re on. And since they’re all so different in personality, it’s quite frankly impossible to get tired of reading the series. This is something you simply cannot achieve in a trilogy, or a movie.
And I mention that because, apparently, there is an Animorphs movie in the works — and it’s the reason why I’m writing this piece in the first place!
I’ve talked about the complexity of the characters, their growths, their struggles during the war. The Animorphs are very dear to my heart for those reasons. So it’s only natural for me to wonder how they’re going to showcase all of those details in one movie?
We don’t have much information regarding what’s going into the movie. Maybe we’ll get a sequel? Maybe they’ll eventually make a show afterwards? Who knows?
But my one hope for this movie is that it will show us the things that made the book series so successful: the unique characters, the lighthearted moments in between battles, the very detailed descriptions of the many aliens in the Animorphs universe, and the gray areas of war.
I think I’ve rambled enough about my thoughts on the Animorphs. But I only want to show my love for the series and the characters, and my limitless gratitude towards Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant for creating this world I adore so much.
I know the books are hard to come by nowadays, but if you ever catch one of them in the wild — take the leap and buy it. It might just change your life.
'Animorphs' Movie in the Works from Scholastic Entertainment, Erik Feig's Picturestart (Exclusive)
The main plot of Animorphs follows five teens - Jake, Marco, Cassie, Rachel, and Tobias - who have the ability to morph…