The Visitor

Animorphs #2
by K.A. Applegate

In the second book, the five Animorphs decide to spy on one of their alien enemies, whose host is the parent of Rachel\’s friend Melissa. Well, Melissa used to be Rachel\’s friend, but gradually a distance has grown between them and Melissa seems cold towards her, unhappy overall. When Rachel takes the form of a cat to spy on the enemy in Melissa\’s house, she finds out why. Her mission becomes more than just gathering information, she now feels compelled to help her old friend- even though it means risking exposure, or staying too long in the cat body. The friends discover more about the alien Yeerk\’s organization, see at close hand how the parasitic Yeerks destroy families from the inside out, and come uncomfortably close to the worst of the bad guys- narrowly escaping with their lives. Unfortunately they don\’t really save Melissa- her parents are still enslaved by the aliens- but they do prevent a worse fate happening to her.

I can see now why some other readers mention these books are dark. There are battles that can be gruesome, I see moral dilemmas arising, and so far there are no happy, neatly-tied up endings. The kids try hard to fight the enemy, but they are still arguing a lot among themselves, still figuring out how morphing works, and one of them- Tobias- got trapped in the body of a hawk permanently. There\’s an interestingly dark irony to the fact that Rachel recognizes her struggle to control the animal brain she takes on as a morph, is similar to the struggle the alien Yeeks exert to control their human hosts. The main animal experiences in this book are Rachel\’s as a cat- her quickness to notice movement, her indifference to things people care about, her supreme self-confidence. There\’s also a scene where she transforms into a shrew- and has a terrible time controlling the shrew\’s frantic panic at any threat and desperate drive to find food. You\’d think, then, that Jake\’s transformation into a flea would also be a frightening experience (he found it very unsettling to be in the body and mind of a skittish lizard in the last book) but on the contrary- his senses were so limited in comparison to a human experience- visual input he couldn\’t interpret, sounds just loud, muffled reverberations- that he couldn\’t really tell what was going on. I found all this pretty interesting, and although the alien battle storyline still strikes me as rather juvenile, the kids\’ strong emotional motives to continue the fight (after all, the Yeerks don\’t know who they are, so they could easily fade back into anonymity if they wanted to) are made to feel very real.

Borrowed from the public library. (This is the only one of the newer issues where the frozen-hologram image on the hardcover works for me.)

Rating: 3/5              174 pages, 1996

more opinions:
Arkham Reviews
the Library Ladies

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