The Invasion

by K. A. Applegate
Series: Animorphs 1
Reviewed date: 2020 Mar 5
184 pages
cover art

I decided to read some Animorphs books from the mid-90s. These are really good. My daughters kept telling me they were good. I can't believe I never got around to reading them until now. The writing won't win any awards for style--it's competent. And the plot is all kind of silly: alien Yeerks secretly invading Earth by mind-controlling key humans, and they can only be stopped by five teenagers who have the special powers to morph into animal shapes.

But by golly, these are really good. The kids understand the stakes involved--the future of the human race. But also, the stakes are personal: the fate of an older brother. The stolen family life of a dear friend.

I'm only six books into the series, but this is a series where actions have consequences. Harrowing experiences and narrow escapes lead to nightmares and post-traumatic stress. A mistake literally costs Tobias his humanity: he's stuck in the form of a hawk--and he alternates between feeling human grief and anger at his situation, and letting go and allowing the hawk nature to dominate until there's no rational mind left. Pretty good stuff for a YA book. Actually, pretty good for any book.

Target audience: young teens
The characters are teenagers and the books themselves seemed to be aimed at young teens. They are easier reading than Harry Potter.

Content: mostly kid-friendly
I’ve read the first six books. There are occasional references to teenage crushes, and once or twice one of them says something like how he wants to drive a fancy car someday, to attract girls. But so far that’s it. (My daughter informs me that there are only two kisses in the entire series.)

There are some offhand references to evolution.

A few characters come from difficult family situations. One kid’s parents are divorced and it’s kind of played off as no big deal. Another kid’s mother died (well, presumed drowned) and his dad is consumed with grief and basically checked out of parenting. And another kid’s parents are dead (I think) and he’s shuttled between relatives who don’t care about him.

Warning: intense
But the main thing is the gore and violence. It’s not super graphic, but people die. The alien bad guy likes to kill people and/or eat them. The kids go through a lot of fighting against aliens, and it gives them nightmares and post-traumatic stress. And granted, this is all written for an audience of young teens, so it’s not super disturbing. I’d describe it as intense. (My daughter tells me they get more violent and intense in the later books, to the point where she had to take a break from reading them. She was 13 or 14 at the time. But to be fair, she's a bit sensitive about such things. My other daughter did not need a break.)

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