So I've been out of the blogging game for a few months (tumblr notwithstanding), thanks to a nearly-career-derailingly disastrous bout of writer's block that rolled over me like a semi truck the moment I hit send on the final paper of my master's degree. It seems wise, therefore, to ease back into bloggery with something gentle and delightful.
I got the idea from Snark Squad, whose archives have devoured many, many hours of my life these past few months. Though they've since graduated to coverage of things like Fifty Shades of Ohgodno and Buffy, the ladies of Snark Squad were initially devoted to recapping horrible book series of their childhood: Sweet Valley High, Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps, etc. (If you have a million or two hours to spare, read all of their archives from the very beginning. It will enrich your vocabulary, if not your life.)
Now, I have an odd quirk of the personality whereby I very much enjoy reading other people snark on terrible literature in magnificent detail, but I generally can't stomach bad books on their own. Which is odd, given my documented enthusiasm for cheesy pop music, questionable television, and irredeemable movies; but then books are a greater investment of time, and I have a longer history with them than with any of those other media.
So there's no way I would invest the precious reading time on something without redeeming features. Instead, I thought I would revisit a book series that I extremely loved as a child, and that remains awesomesauce even unto today.
I speak, of course, of K.A. Applegate's superbly rad and stupendous Animorphs books.
If you are not familiar with Animorphs, well, you are in for a TREAT. The Animorphs are five kids who learn that, unbeknownst to anyone else on the planet, Earth is the site of an intense battle between warring alien species. Telepathic shape-shifting space centaurs called Andalites are the good guys fighting for liberation from the invaders. Yeerks are the parasitic slugs that wrap around the brains of other species and control them completely. In the first book, a dying Andalite bestows the power of shape-shifting (“morphing”) on the kids, and the rest of the series – 54 main books, 16 sidequest volumes – chronicles their battles against the Yeerks. It's intensely high-stakes, mind-blowingly cool, surprisingly non-terrible at race and gender sometimes, and extremely nineties.
As I go through the series, expect to see a few notable points recurring:
- Animorphs displays a moral depth and complexity which is matched by few kids' series even since the great YA boom of the twenty-first century.
- Animorphs' portrayal of the psychological toll of warfare on the adolescent psyche puts Harry Potter to shame – all the characters' PTSD manifests in much more sophisticated and believable ways than capslock!Harry and the Temper Tantrum of Doom.
- Animorphs offers a coping mechanism and fantasy outlet for trans* kids (even deeply-in-denial trans* kids), particularly in the characters of Tobias, who spends most of the series trapped in the body of a hawk, and Ax, an Andalite stranded on Earth who must morph to human form any time he wants to interact with humans other than the Animorphs.
- Nineties pop-culture references are hilarious and deserve to be chronicled in loving detail.
- CAPSLOCK FLAILING KEYMASH FANBOY AFGALDKJFHGKADHGHJ;K;JWEFO;I
- Hell, maybe I'll even do some Animorphs-based theologizing at some point, if the Ph.D. I'm starting this fall doesn't take all the fun out of pop theology for me.
Check back soon to meet Jake, Cassie, Rachel, Marco, and Tobias, and learn their superhero origin story!