Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Test (K. A. Applegate)

The Test
(The Animorphs series, Book 43)
K. A. Applegate
Fiction, YA Sci-Fi
***** (Great)

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

DESCRIPTION: Of all the Animorphs, Tobias has made the most sacrifices. On their first mission to the Yeerk pool, he gave up his humanity when he became a nothlit, trapped in hawk morph. Regaining his morphing ability through the interference of the Ellimist, Tobias had a chance to return to human - to stay a human forever, to be with Rachel as a normal boy - but chose to remain in the fight as an Animorph. When they needed someone to destroy the Yeerks' Anti-Morphing Ray, Tobias volunteered to be the test subject... and endured unimaginable torture at the hands of Taylor, the sadistically insane sub-visser in charge of the project. That was when he nearly gave up his own sanity, and the horror, the weakness of being entirely in Taylor's control, still haunts him.
Tobias had thought Taylor dead; she displeased Visser Three, after all, and few who fail him once last long enough to do so again. But then, after being injured by an eagle attack and sent to an animal hospital, there she was. His captor. His torturer. His bane. Instead of killing him, however, she lets him go - after telling him that she wants the help of his friends. Many Yeerks, she claims, are unhappy with how the Vissers and the Council have botched their empire's expansion. She wants to destroy Visser Three and spark a revolution that will resonate across the galaxy. Taylor has a plan that is every bit as heartless as she is, devastatingly simple. A victory in one blow.
Tobias is torn. On the one hand, the chance to cause trouble for the invasion is too good to pass up, even if it means partnering with such an unsavory, unstable person. On the other, he alone knows just how evil Taylor truly is at heart... and how hard it is to break free of her clutches.

REVIEW: How many middle-grade books explore the ramifications of torture and post-traumatic stress? Not many. Applegate writes a brilliant follow-up to Tobias's darkest adventure, pitting the tortured against the torturer on an ever-shifting playing field. He struggles to reconcile his lingering sense of helplessness and weakness, his shame at having been broken, with the the greater needs of the war and his friends - and, by overcompensating, nearly destroys everything he's ever fought for. The Animorphs find their ethics tested and twisted to the utmost, as they weigh the costs of victory at any price against their own humanity. The war has changed them all, leaving scars that will never heal. They aren't children anymore, but soldiers in the truest sense of the word. A fine return to form after the inane meanderings of Book 42.

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