Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Return (K. A. Applegate)

The Return
(The Animorphs series, Book 48)
K. A. Applegate
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
***+ (Okay/Good)

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

DESCRIPTION: For weeks now, Rachel has been plagued by nightmares. Anyone in her shoes - given the ability to morph animals, thrown onto the front lines of a war against parasitic alien invaders, constantly in fear of discovery by her enemies - would be insane not to have bad dreams, but Rachel's are worse than normal. In them, her dark side, the bloodthirsty beast in her own heart, takes over, threatening her friends and comrades even as she thrills in its amoral power. But they're just dreams... or are they?
Rachel finds herself trapped in a multi-layered nightmare, too real to be a dream yet too impossible to be reality. At the center of it lurks the evil red eye of Crakak... and a white rat named David. The seventh Animorph whom they trapped in rat morph when he went rogue. Crayak offers Rachel's dark side a chance to emerge, to flourish. It has the strength to destroy Visser One. It has the power to save Earth. And all it will cost is one life: the life of Jake, the leader of the Animorphs.
If Rachel accepts the Crayak's gift, she will become the most powerful being in this sector of the galaxy. If she rejects it, she'll end up with David: trapped as a rat. Forever.

REVIEW: This book, following through on Crayak's earlier attempt to seduce Rachel to his side of the conflict, stumbles by trying too hard. It wants to be Rachel's equivalent of Tobias's torture at the hands of the mad Yeerk Taylor in The Illusion (Book 33), crossed with a follow-through on the fate of David and some temptation-of-evil for good measure. Any one of those, alone, might have made a stronger story, but mashed together it just becomes too surreal. The whole book has a nightmarish overtone, as Crayak bends and warps reality on a whim to ensare Rachel in his plans. Given the series finale, there's more than a little character foreshadowing here, as she confronts the reality of her near-addiction to the danger of warfare; even if the Yeerks left tomorrow, she'll never be able to pretend she's an ordinary girl again, that she'll be happy just shopping at The Gap or chilling in front of the TV. It's been a theme with her character since the beginning, and the degree to which it's come to dominate her life shows just how severely the war has affected her. David, in his return, does less than I might have expected - and, frankly, of all the characters the Animorphs have encountered, all the tantalizing loose threads from previous adventures, I wouldn't have picked him as the one to revisit. Still, given that it reads more like a head-trip than an active progression of the mytharc, the book does its job.

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