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The Invasion (Animorphs 1) - K.A. Applegate

I'm an avid reader and passionate about the craft that goes into creating compelling stories.

I went into this series with high expectations. I’ve never read these books before so they weren’t a staple of my childhood or formed me into the person I am today like, say, the Harry Potter books had. That said, I’ve been aware of them for a long time.

When I started reading consistently I was around 13 years old so I was more interested in the YA genre, and I pretty much consumed only that for the next two or so years. By the time I discovered other kinds of books existed, I had no interest in reading Animorphs. Until now.

See, this series is categorized as /children’s books/ and, from what I’ve read these are anything but. I heard that these books deal with themes like war, loss of innocence, identity, trauma, PTSD, and those just to name a few.
So yeah, I went into the series with very high expectations.

I loved this book. It does an amazing job of hooking the reader from the get-go. We start the story with Jake introducing himself and telling us how dangerous the situation he’s in is. He talks about how the Controllers are everywhere and waiting for the perfect moment to strike. From 0 to 100 we know that Jake’s world is dangerous.

Everything that happens has a weight to it. You’re able to sense that whatever it is that is happening or about to happen will have a lasting impact and will have consequences.

I was not expecting the tone the story has throughout. It is surprisingly mature and serious in tackling the traumatic events the characters go through. Overall the story takes on a darker tone and, dare I say, nostalgic. The narrator, in this case, Jake, already knows what’s going to happen, he’s just telling us the story so there are phrases sprinkled here and there that suggest bad things are about to happen and how he actually feels.

“He just looked at me with those deep, troubled eyes - eyes I can now see only in my memory.”

I think it’s fair saying that for the somber tone the story has there are moments of levity, especially when they morph into an animal, and are discovering how their powers work. The humor is simple but effective. And scarce.

“Bad dog,” Tom said to me. “You keep quiet. Bad dog.” And then he left. I was devastated. I wasn’t a bad dog. Not really. I was just barking because some other dog was in MY yard. Bad dog? I was a bad dog? No, I wanted to be a good dog. I crept into the corner, utterly miserable. Tobias knelt and patted my head. When he scratched me behind the ears, I felt a little better.”

Applegate does a good job of establishing the world and the morphs powers and all the rules. It does leave some things unanswered for future books to explore but you leave this book understanding pretty well how everything works. There are a few plot points set up to explore later and some that get resolved right away, like Tobias exceeding the two-hour limit or Tom being a Controller.

I like this book. It has very strong points and does its job beautifully but, in all honesty, I wasn’t a fan of the big final battle. I felt like it accomplished very little. It might’ve been more impactful if it came in later books because in this one it seemed rushed and inconsequential. The Yeerks are supposed to be the Big Bad and these kids just infiltrated their secret base will little to no trouble. They not only escaped with their lives but Jake even managed to land a couple of blows to Visser Three, who is supposed to be terrifying.

What surprised me though, was Tobias getting stuck in his morph. That is a major event that happened in the story and that doesn’t usually happen in the first book. The reveal of the Yeerks and the novelty of the morphing power would have been enough to seek the reader. Yet, we also got that heartbreaking cliffhanger.

That said, overall this is a good introduction to the Animorphs world. We get a feel of our main characters, it established the villains and the powers pretty well.

There’s this one quote that I think encompasses how crazy and how different the lives of these kids are now:

“Sometimes I think about that one, last moment when we were still just normal kids (…) You know what I was afraid of right then? I was afraid of admitting to Tom that I hadn’t made the team. That was as scary as life got back then.”

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.