Updated: Oct 8, 2020
I credit Kathrin Applegate, the author of Animorphs, with being my greatest influence. (Tied for first place with George Lucas.)
Animorphs was a young adult science fiction series about, you guessed it, an alien invasion of Earth. A covert invasion of Earth.
I was late to the Animorphs table. I didn’t read them when they were first released. I grew up on a farm. The eldest of two. Me and my sister. My cousin moved in with us after my aunty died. It was how I thought of it at the time. My aunty. Not his mother. But he brought with him a few Animorphs books. I can still recall the numbers. #21 #22 #5 and #3. I read them in that order. I can still remember picking up book number three. The most tattered of the lot. Book three struck a chord with me, at the same time messed with my head a bit.
And it should, considering the themes it covered. Suicide. Bestiality. Pretty heavy for a ten-year-old to read.
But much like me reasoning it was my aunt who died. While I understood the themes, they washed over me. It still hit me like a truck, but I didn’t know why. I just knew I wanted more. When Tobias was struggling to resist the urge to mate with the female red tailed hawk he freed from Dealin’ Dan’s, I realised it was something that can only properly be explored in science fiction. Even typing it out seems strange. But it made perfect sense then.
I may not have completely digested all the information. I knew it was deep and dark. My ten-year-old mind just made it all work. Like it made it all work that my aunty had died and now my cousin lived with us and I wasn’t the eldest anymore.
So that was it. I started from the outset. Book #1. The Invasion. I read the David trilogy for a second time in a one night. The following night I read Book #23, under the light of only my bedside digital clock. Because I didn’t want my parents to catch me up past midnight. I would have kept reading, but I had no book to read onto. I had caught up. I gobbled up each book as it was released. I read most in one sitting. A year before the finally, “The Ellimist Chronicles” Dropped. It jumped around in time, thousands of years before to a year ahead. Implying the death of a lead character. A character who had been with me for my formative years. A devoted reader could work out who it was. And for almost a year I just side-lined that information. Like my mind couldn’t accept it. I knew it but wouldn’t process it.
The final came and went, I was proven right. I said goodbye to a character I had spent years with, then a hundred pages later said goodbye to the rest of them as the series drew to a close. I loved the finally when it happened. I desperately searched for the 5th Megamorphs book. Life took over and I forgot about it.
Looking back now it was probably only five years. In those five years I’d finished school, started a business. Become an adult. I decided to re-read the series in full. Of course, it was like time travel. Bringing back all my childhood memories. Staying awake to after midnight, trying not to audibly laugh at things Marco would say. The further I moved through it, the more I realised how much the series formed me. When I re-read the finally, I broke down in tears.
It was like all the nuances clicked in together at once. I remembered that tattered book, #3, I realised only then, a lead character was trying to kill himself in a children’s book. And I remembered it was my cousin who gave me that tattered book. All the nuances of childhood clicked. I was the eldest. It was my job to look after my little sister. But then he showed up, lost his mother, and with the best intentions started trying to take my job. I realised only then I resented him for it. We each had grown into vastly different people, who barely keep contact.
A good story will hold you for years. It ties into all these different parts of your life. Even if you miss bits of it the first time you hear it. It’s why Animorphs stayed with me. I was always going to go back and explore it, in my mind at the least.