Friday, September 16, 2011

The Stranger (K. A. Applegate)

The Stranger
(The Animorphs series, Book 7)
K. A. Applegate
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
**** (Good)

NOTE: In honor of the re-release of the series, I'm finally posting individual reviews of the Animorph books.

DESCRIPTION: Rachel has always been one of the most enthusiastic of the Animorphs, ready to fight from the start. But even as she's dealing out death and destruction to the Yeerks, she's also still a kid, with little sisters and a lawyer mother and a newscaster father who have recently divorced. Now, her dad's moving halfway across the country... and he wants Rachel to come with him.
Even as she struggles with that problem, the Animorphs face another: during their latest attempt to infiltrate the underground Yeerk pool, they find themselves confronted with a brand-new alien. Known as an Ellimist, he can fold space and time like cheap origami paper - and, according to him, the fight to save Earth is already lost. A select few humans might be saved on a distant, safe world beyond the reach of the Yeerks... if the Animorphs agree. Now, everyone wants Rachel to make up her mind.
Leave the city? Leave the fight? Or leave the planet? What's a girl supposed to do... and will she live long enough to make the decision at all?

REVIEW: If this book seems a little weaker than the previous installment, it's because so much is shoehorned into the story. Some very mytharc-pivotal stuff is going on here, from the introduction of the Ellimist to the possibility of the Animorphs' first decisive victory in the war, and the plot has to do some stretching to accommodate it. Rachel, always the strong one, finds herself on the verge of crumbling under the pressure she faces from so many different fronts. Her family matters might seem laughably trivial compared to the fight to save Earth, but to a middle-school-age girl they carry similar weight; it's a credit to Applegate that I, as a reader, was able to understand that she couldn't just "get over it" and focus on the "big" stuff. It all comes together in the end, moving both mytharc and characters forward for the next book.
In rereading the series, I keep finding myself noting how quickly times change. None of the Animorphs owns a cell phone. In a previous book, Cassie talks about setting the VCR to record a TV show. Even Marco's nickname for Rachel, Xena, probably seems dated to modern middle-schoolers, though it was a prominent pop-culture reference in the late 1990's. (I'd say it makes me feel old, but I was over the target age when I first read these books anyway... and my dad always swiped them as soon as I got through with them.)
And I'll switch to a new link as soon as the reissue becomes available for pre-order... in the meantime, this one works.

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