I adore The Animorphs. The book series by K.A. Applegate started in 1996 and shows the horror of war through the eyes of a group of preteens who battle a hidden alien invasion by transforming into animals. It’s a heart-wrenching, traumatizing story disguised as middle-grade sci-if that is my favorite book series of all time. It’s funny, it’s exciting, it’s silly, and always fun to randomly dip back into.
I own copies of every book in the series. All 64 of them. Add in the graphic novel that came out last year, and I've got 65 Animorphs books.
I tell just about everyone I talk to anywhere I go online or in real life about The Animorphs. I genuinely think it is a series that has something for just about everyone. But… maybe I haven't yet had a chance to convince you to go out and read The Animorphs, and that's what this post is out to fix.
Here are five spoiler-lite reasons that you, yes you dear reader, should be reading The Animorphs right now.
1. The (Pre-)Teen Drama
The main characters in this franchise all start at around a pre-teen level of maturity, and the book wraps up when they are closer to driving age. Each book is told from the first-person perspective of one of the group, rotating book to book in a semi-regular order. Between the age of the characters and the constantly shifting perspective, there are all sorts of fun teenage drama to dig into.
There's a lot of will-they-won't-they romance throughout the books, there are struggles with parents and siblings, and how to battle a guerilla war without failing math class. This series has all the fun of Buffy trying to balance slaying and school but from several different perspectives.
Also, one of the man characters totally thinks their cousin is a hotty. I'm not sure what to make of that, but… drama.
2. The Body Horror
This is a series for kids, but you wouldn't know it from some of the awful, horrible things that happen to characters and their bodies. To start with, let's talk about the whole “morphing” process. Sure, it's not painful when the kids transform into an animal, but the books go out of their way to make a point of how painful it should be. And it emphasizes that pain by invoking sound, so the reader feels like they can hear what's happening.
Beyond the morphing, there are some gruesome battles that happen throughout the books. Characters lose limbs, get their guts slashed open, and blackout from pain. Sentient beings are eaten in this book with terrifying regularity. This isn't just stuff that happens to villains, either, it happens to our heroes. There's nothing quite like reading about a character losing their foot or tail from their own perspective!
I won't get to detailed here, but sometimes the battles aren't even with evil aliens. The most horrific piece of media I've ever taken in is a perfectly mundane encounter between earth species in book five.
3. The Side Stories
There are 54 numbered books in the mainline Animorphs series, and then another 10 books that are just outside of that main continuity.
Two of them are choose your own adventure adaptations of stories from the main books. They… they aren’t great. They are silly fun for fans of the series, but not that exciting otherwise.
There are four books written under the Megamorphs banner. These loosely fit into the continuity of the main books, but tell bigger, more out there stories. Think of it like how Batman The Movie did everything the Adam West show did, just a little bigger. I love the Megamorphs books, and the first one can be a decent entry point to the franchise.
Finally, there are four books that fall into the “Chronicles” category. These fill in the history of the universe and the rise of the Yeerk empire. The coolest thing about the Chronicles books are that they are all written from alien perspectives, so you get to see things from an entirely non-human perspective. These books do an amazing job of letting the reader experience the differences and similarities between cultures. The Hork-Bajir Chronicles might be my favorite exploration of an alien culture in any fiction.
4. The Absurdity
Beyond the basic premise of “secret alien invasion of earth”, this series has some buckwild extra elements. If you like time travel, you'll dig Animorphs. Genectically engineered species more your thing? Animorphs. Oh, you like the idea of immortal, dog-like androids? Have you read Animorphs? Have you always felt like broccoli is a horrible vegetable that must not have been meant to exist on our planet? So does the Animorphs.
Shrink rays. Holograms. Gods. Monsters. Fencing, fighting, revenge!
It's all in the Animorphs.
And listen, I'm not going to tell you that every book in the series is a 10 out of 10. In fact, quite a few of them were ghostwritten by fill in authors, and some of those are on the edge of horrible… but once you are in to this series some of those bad books become your favorites to laugh at.
5. The Final Arc
The final 10 books in the Animorphs tell an interconnected story that is absolutely amazing. It's heart-breaking and heart-warming. It's devastating and hopeful. Every time I read it I tear up with sadness and with delight.
I can't tell you much about how the series ends, because I really do want you to go out and read it. What I can tell you is that it is my favorite ending to any media I've seen end (sorry Deep Space Nine), and that the letter the author wrote about the ending makes it even better.
Please, really, go read the Animorphs
I love these books. I know that I love them with a nostalgic lens, but I really do think it is a fantastic, fun, easy to read series that manages to bring up concepts that can be really, really difficult to deal with. It is my favorite series, and I think it always will be. I hope that if you've read The Animorphs before you feel I've done them justice and that, if you haven't read them, you are thinking about doing so now.