Metamorphosis juvenile fiction – The Animorphs

This ambling, direction-less lifestyle I currently lead is perfect in that if one plan fails, I make another, no problem : nobody to inform and nobody to decide but me. This is good because I have an endless supply of  inbred inconsiderateness that enjoys being exercised. I also have the time and the money to make my  decisions. Malaysia means being chauffered around and cooked for, and being completely guiltless about guiltlessly enjoying life with my parents’ money. But Singapore means a suddenly sky high transport fare and my own meals. Merely five days here have left me feeling vaguely penniless.

I went to sleep last early morning (2am) planning to spend a day biking by the beach, going as far and as fast as I wanted to. But it was drizzling when I woke up, and the mostly elderly population of Ang Mo Kio, usually given to sitting or walking around the blocks to while away the time, had quit the grounds for shelter. The cool wind and rain received me like the sky the lone eagle. It’s quite flattering, and rather gratifying, to be the only person being drizzled upon.

In view of saving the busfare, I walked to Bishan Public Library, which was pleasingly empty. There was something else I’d promised myself : that I’d return to these bookhavens and read to my heart’s content when my A levels were over. RI’s library won’t read my student card anymore, so I shall turn to public resources, which are reasonably decent.

What in the world, though, does any library intend to do with one Animorph book? How is anyone supposed to get a story out of one book in a series of fifty-four! The Animorph series reads a little like Francis’s Mindfuck in that the science-fiction elements are immediately follow-able and that the characters, like Val Toreth, are unforgettable. Animorphs might be abrupt and cliched at times, with the ‘deadpan one liner’ style characteristic of teenage urban fiction, but somehow, given the gritty, underground element to this story, it’s fitting and believable.  

“We can’t tell you who we are. Or where we live. It’s too risky, and we’ve got to be careful. Really careful. So we don’t trust anyone. Because if they find us … well, we just won’t let them find us. The things you should know is that everyone is in really big trouble. Yeah. Even you.”

A desperately outnumbered resistance force against the advancing Yeerk empire, five kids, Jake, Marco, Cassie, Rachel, Tobia, and one Andalite, Ax, have only two things on their side : anonymity, and the ability to morph into different animals. In spite of – or because of – the odds, they are hell bent on kicking ass, or on going down kicking ass. It is a kid’s book that’s exceptionally well crafted. Bar the appeal of morphing to any proper kid, and Animorphs is still highly enjoyable because the kids remain exactly that – kids. There is kid friendship, kid loyalty and kid bravado, and any regret, fear and anxiety is voiced but pushed aside, the way most kids do. The romances are minimal, bittersweet with the uncertainty of survival and the knowledge that their battle against the Yeerks comes first; no complicated love triangles (the Roswell series), no jarringly inappropriate ‘romantic developments’ (Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance trilogy has stellar examples of romance gone wrong) and no gratuitous declarations of love (Twilight). There is dissension, but ultimately they all remain loyal to Jake, accepting that his decisions are difficult and that he often has no choice. Very thankfully, there is no tiresome teenage squabbling (Harry Potter’s drearying malcontent), and no angst-riddled moralizing that often passes for ‘character development’.

Let kids be kids. All six Animorphs mature through the series, held together by a common understanding of the lives that they lead and the darkness they have had to face. I’d only read one book this time, but it was enough to remind me of a life that I’d forgotten how to live – one that is straighforward, focused, and above all, unrepentant.  Long live the Animorphs.

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