Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Ultimate (K. A. Applegate)

The Ultimate
(The Animorphs series, Book 50)
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: Life in the Hork-Bajir refugee camp is stressful enough. Add in too-close quarters, parents who still cannot accept the real and imminent danger of the Yeerks, the knowledge that, however much they drill and practice, they simply cannot survive a direct assault, and the fact that Jake's family - mother, father, and brother - are all Controllers... well, it's hardly a wonder that the Animorphs are falling apart. Cassie watches helplessly as Jake's fire dwindles to a cold, empty pit of apathy. She no longer knows him, this boy she used to consider more than a friend. He needs help.
He needs more troops. More Animorphs. Because, even though the experiment with David turned out to be a disaster, the original six can no longer fight this war alone.
The trouble is finding people who will, unlike their parents (or most adults, in their experience), accept the dangers and the responsibilities of morphing... and who are guaranteed not to already have an alien slug in their brains. Cassie knows just where to recruit, from a population that the Yeerks - and the humans - dismiss without a second thought. The hospital beds of sick and disabled children.
But, even as she tells Jake and the others her plan, she has to wonder: is Jake the only one losing touch with their humanity, or has her soul become just as calloused and empty as his?

REVIEW: This is just the sort of plot development that should've come earlier in the series. But, then, these last books feel like a wind sprint through all the stuff Applegate meant to do, but kept putting off to crank out filler plots. Jake comes closer to cracking than ever before, the loss of his whole family driven home by day after day of watching Marco, Cassie, Rachel, and even the orphaned Tobias with their safe-and-sound parents. Cassie wants to believe she's still the same person she used to be before the war, but watching her parents react to her new self drives home her own transformation into someone she doesn't particularly like, but cannot seem to break away from. In the end, Cassie risks everything once she held dear for redemption... even, possibly, her love for Jake. Returning to the internal conflicts and moral dilemmas that were always the strength of the series, The Ultimate demonstrates that the spark is still alive, even fifty-odd books later.

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