Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Departure (K. A. Applegate)

The Departure
(The Animorphs series, Book 19)
K. A. Applegate
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
****+ (Good/Great)

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

DESCRIPTION: Cassie has always been the heart of the Animorphs, the moral compass that kept them from straying over the line from defenders of freedom to cold-blooded killers. But she no longer knows where that line is. Once a well of compassion, she has lost herself in the pitiless minds of predators. Once a pacifist, she has followed her friends into ruthless battle. Once a lover of Nature's harmony, she has seen the constant struggle for survival that is the animal world. Everything seems to be going gray and dead inside. Cassie cannot seem to care about anything anymore. She doesn't want to - she can't - live like this.
So she walks away. From the battle. From her friends. From the fight against the Yeerks.
But walking away doesn't undo the changes that months of battle have wrought. The emptiness stays with her. Even her hopes of burying herself in work at the family wildlife clinic are dashed when she learns that their corporate sponsor has pulled funding. Then she finds herself lost in the wilderness... lost, but not alone. With her is the young girl Karen - a girl who knows more than she should about Cassie, about war, about the Yeerks and the Andalites. Karen is a human-Controller. She knows who - and what - Cassie is. And Cassie finds her wavering convictions put to their ultimate test.

REVIEW: Having seen the mighy Andalite image tarnished so severely in Book 18, and how peacable Cassie lost herself so completely in the mind of a Tyrannosaurs Rex in Megamorphs 2, this culminates a character transformation that epitomizes the series' strongest suit: its willingness to address the gray areas that other series (young adult and grown-up alike) often gloss over. Not every Andalite is Prince Elfangor, but not every Yeerk is Visser Three... and even in the midst of all-out war, there can be a time and a place - even a need - to recognize that the enemy may not always be who (or what) they appear to be. This book is less about the fighting and more about the complex issues of the Yeerk war. It loses a half-star for a bit of a logic hiccup at the end, and the fact that the escaped leopard subplot wasn't strictly necessary; a mountain lion or other native predator would've filled its role nicely. Overall, a beautiful tale.

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