As you may or may not recall, back in late 2020, I found myself re-reading the Animorphs series and was shocked at the many adult themes found in these books meant for kids. As a child, I had missed many of the underlying messages and themes that are more relevant and important today than ever before.
My great re-read took longer than I would have liked but like with many things life got in the way. I paused and started a few times since I was originally including Animorphs editions on my podcast (another side project that has been on hiatus). When I finally went back to work, everything I was working on was put on pause, including my re-read.
Finally, in early 2022, I jumped back on the Animorphs wagon and finished the final book while on my birthday cruise with tears streaming down my face. I won’t spoil anything for you but- DAMN.
For the record, if you’d like to re-read the series for yourself, it is available in its entirety in PDF form by clicking here.
For those who are unfamiliar, Animorphs is a book series written by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant that follows a group of teenagers who gain the power to shapeshift into any animal they touch. With this newfound ability, they must fight against an alien invasion that threatens the fate of the planet. It’s a series that is full of action, adventure, and, as I discovered during my re-read, a surprising amount of depth and complexity.
One of the most striking themes of the series is the struggle of adolescence and identity. The characters in Animorphs are grappling with the challenges of growing up, including issues of self-doubt, peer pressure, and the search for one’s place in the world. Through the lens of their animal transformations, readers are able to explore these struggles in a unique and thought-provoking way.
The series also addresses larger societal issues, including war, oppression, and the ethics of violence. The Animorphs are forced to confront difficult moral questions as they fight to save the world from the alien Yeerks, who seek to enslave the human race. The series does not shy away from the violence and trauma of war, and the characters are forced to grapple with the consequences of their actions in a way that is both honest and nuanced.
But perhaps what struck me most during my re-read was the surprising relevance of the series to today’s world. One of the things that makes Animorphs so powerful and enduring is its ability to tackle complex and difficult issues in a way that is accessible and engaging for readers of all ages. And while the series was first published in the 1990s, its themes continue to resonate with readers today.
For example, the series explores issues of identity and self-discovery, as the characters grapple with their newfound ability to transform into animals and the resulting challenges and opportunities that come with this ability. These themes are especially relevant in a world where people are increasingly encouraged to express themselves and explore their individuality, but also face backlash and discrimination for doing so.
Animorphs also explores themes of power and privilege, as the characters must navigate their own privilege as human beings and the power dynamics at play in their battle against the Yeerks. These themes are especially relevant today in a world where systemic inequalities and power imbalances continue to have a profound impact on individuals and communities.
Additionally, the series explores themes of resistance and activism, as the characters must fight against the oppressive forces of the Yeerks and work to build a better future for themselves and their world. These themes are especially relevant in a world where many people are working to fight against injustice and create positive change in their communities.
Overall, the themes and messages of Animorphs are just as important and relevant today as they were when the series was first published. By exploring complex issues in an engaging and accessible way, the series offers a powerful reminder of the importance of empathy, resilience, and the power of collective action.
Additionally, the Animorphs series has been praised for its representation of diverse characters and relationships. The series features a diverse cast of characters, including characters of color and characters with disabilities, and depicts a variety of relationships, including friendships, romances, and familial bonds. While the series does not feature any explicitly queer characters, it has been praised for its portrayal of diverse relationships and for creating a safe and welcoming space for readers who may not have felt seen or heard in other media.
One character in particular, Tobias, has resonated with many readers in the LGBTQ+ community. In book 3, “The Encounter,” Tobias – who has been stuck in his hawk form for too long and is struggling to hold onto his humanity – has a powerful emotional breakdown. He opens up to his friends about how trapped and alone he feels and how he’s afraid he’ll never be able to turn back into a human again. His vulnerability and raw emotion are incredibly relatable for many readers, especially those who have struggled with their own identities or felt isolated from their peers.
It’s worth noting that the authors behind Animorphs, Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant, have been outspoken supporters of the LGBTQ+ community. Their activism and support for the community further underscores the importance of representation and inclusivity in media, and the impact it can have on readers. They have both also expressed that they wished they could have done more to add that level of diversity to the series.
What’s my point in saying all of this? Revisiting the Animorphs series in 2023 is an important and valuable experience. It’s a series that offers a wealth of material for readers of all ages to engage with and reflect on. From the struggles of adolescence and identity to larger societal issues like war and oppression, the series addresses a wide range of complex themes and provides a unique perspective on these issues through its animal shapeshifting lens. The series has also been praised for its representation of diverse characters and relationships, creating a safe and welcoming space for readers who may not have felt seen or heard in other media. And for those who have already read the series, a re-read may reveal new layers and themes that were missed during the first go-around.
Beyond the themes and messages, Animorphs is simply a fun and engaging series that is well-written and full of action and adventure. The characters are well-developed and relatable, and readers will undoubtedly find themselves invested in their stories and rooting for their success.
In a time when the world can feel overwhelming and complex, revisiting Animorphs is a reminder of the power of literature to explore important issues and themes in a way that is accessible and engaging for readers of all ages. So, whether you’re a fan of the series from childhood or discovering it for the first time, I highly recommend giving Animorphs a read in 2023. Unleash your inner animal and join the fight against the Yeerks – you won’t regret it.
In addition to the original book series, fans of Animorphs have been treated to the gift of the series being resurrected. The series is currently being re-released in graphic novel form, with the first three books already available in this new format. The graphic novels are adapted by Chris Grine, who has worked on other popular graphic novel adaptations such as Jekyll and Hyde and Chickenhare.
These new graphic novels not only offer a fresh and exciting way to experience the story, but they also introduce the series to a whole new generation of readers. The art is vibrant and dynamic, bringing the animal transformations to life in a way that is sure to delight fans both old and new.
With the graphic novels and the original series both available, there has never been a better time to revisit Animorphs. So whether you prefer the classic novels or are eager to dive into the new graphic novel adaptations, there’s something for everyone in this beloved series. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience the world of Animorphs once again in 2023.