Book #19 in the series Animorphs by K.A. Applegate.

Disclaimer: If you've heard of Animorphs and you're thinking "Aww, how cute," maybe you should read my introduction to the first book to see how wrong you are.

THE DEPARTURE

Animorphs #19
by K.A. Applegate

Summarized Plot:

Just when Cassie has decided to quit the Animorphs because she's worried about becoming desensitized to others' pain, she ends up stranded in the woods with a little girl who's a Controller. The Yeerk has been following her ever since a battle in which Cassie killed the Yeerk's brother, but now she's an injured little girl who is depending on Cassie's mercy.

At first Cassie pretends not to know anything about Animorphs or Yeerks, but when she has to rescue little Karen from an attacking leopard, Cassie reveals herself. After arguing with each other about whether there's anything wrong with being either a predator or a parasite, they start to see eye-to-eye somewhat, and even though Cassie definitely doesn't want to hurt the human host who's just a little kid, she's also starting to feel sorry for the Yeerk and doesn't want to kill. The Yeerk in Karen's head, Aftran, tells Cassie that if she were a Yeerk, she wouldn't be able to give up what having a host allows them to feel and do and see, and maintains that she shouldn't have to be a slug when races like humans are so blessed.

Soon Marco finds Cassie--they had a search party going for her--but he finds out that she hasn't eliminated the Yeerk and that this is a very real threat to their secrecy. Before Marco can stop her, Cassie makes a split-second decision and lets Aftran make her a Controller. Aftran proceeds to read Cassie's memories and get loads of valuable information, but she also sees how similar they are and how neither of them wants to fight--they just both want to experience beauty--and eventually they strike a deal for peace. If Cassie can ask Aftran to free her host and never take another--condemning her to a life as a slug--then Cassie must be willing to make that sacrifice herself. Aftran lets Cassie go and goes back into Karen, then talks Cassie into morphing into a caterpillar and becoming trapped in morph. Cassie willingly does it as a symbol of her willingness to make peace. Aftran keeps her word and leaves the host, and Cassie just resigns herself to life as a caterpillar. She ends up going into the pupa stage. And after Jake and the others figure out what's happened and decide to uphold Cassie's promise to the Yeerk, they take her chrysalis and guard it. Soon she's out as a butterfly, and Ax chimes in that this natural morphing procedure changed her body and reset the morphing clock. She's able to morph back to herself, and possesses a new appreciation for her world. She decides to continue fighting with the Animorphs.

About this book:

Narrators: Cassie, Jake

New known controllers:

  • A radio DJ
  • A state highway patrolman
  • A TV news reporter
  • A substitute teacher
  • Karen, a little girl (until the end of the book)
  • Cassie (briefly)
  • State police search party members

New morphs acquired:

Notable:

  • The very weird beginning of this book--in which Cassie says Jake will take over telling her story when she can't anymore--suggests that Cassie already knows she will soon be unable to tell her own story, which is odd considering to know that she'd have to be past the point where she could tell her own story. This is probably a fault of the vague nature of the storytelling. The books aren't a journal or diary (but sometimes they act like it), and they aren't told as if the characters know what happens in the end (except sometimes they do hint at knowing the ending before the book starts), and it's unclear what exactly these books are supposed to BE since the characters recording them appear to be aware that they have readers (from whom they must hide certain details lest these important bits of information fall into the hands of their enemies, though other important secrets like the fact that the Animorphs are not Andalites is revealed freely). The books have a confused level of awareness of future events which is often inconsistent, and if a reader thinks about it too much it makes the story less enjoyable.

  • The Animorphs group members each having their own way of reacting to battle was summarized by Cassie in the beginning of the book. Jake is depressed after a battle; Rachel is energized; Marco makes strained jokes; Tobias is silent; and Cassie is remorseful. (She doesn't really explain Ax's perspective, except to say that he cleaned blood off his tail at the end.)

  • Aftran tells Cassie that being a parasite is not morally inferior to being a predator because humans kill plenty of inferior creatures to live. She points out that at least Yeerks don't chop their hosts into pieces and consume them. However, being in a human host, don't they then have to engage in the predatory behavior that keeps the human host alive? They're both parasite AND predator if they do that. So it makes little sense for Aftran to try to argue the "morality" of being a parasite if being one requires directing the host to engage in predatory behavior. (Considering the Yeerks do not make any kind of mass conversion to vegetarianism.)

  • It's odd that they don't drag Karen off to isolation for a couple more days so they can have the Yeerk close to Kandrona starvation before Cassie ends up putting herself in the insanely risky situations she did (by letting the Yeerk come inside her head). It seemed like Marco was threatening to kill Aftran (which meant killing the little girl) even though there was a much easier way to free her without murdering the human too. However, I guess Marco also thought Karen was a risk because of what she knew about the Animorphs, in case she ever ended up a Controller again.

  • Aftran is able to use Cassie's host body to morph an osprey. Like in a couple previous books, it's unclear whether a Yeerk with a morph-capable host body should really be able to morph into a creature with a skull smaller than a Yeerk. Yeerks are about two inches long. Ospreys' heads (including the beak) are only about three inches long. It doesn't seem like a Yeerk would be able to fit in a space that small.

  • There's an error here--Cassie's narration as she sees Aftran's memories refers to Karen as Aftran's "human morph." Obviously Karen is not a morph; she's a host. A similar not-very-accurate phrase comes out when Jake refers to Ax being "halfway to Andalite morph." Since Andalite's not a morph for him, that's an inaccurate way to phrase it.

  • Another possible error is that Cassie was a wolf when Aftran started crawling into her ear, not wanting Marco to risk coming near them. It's only a moment before Aftran is in control of her brain, but there is no mention that she morphed back to human. After rifling through her memories, Aftran morphs her body into a bird, so she must have been a human while Aftran was reading her mind. This isn't explained.

  • An apparent error: a human-Controller is quoted as laughing and saying "I have you now!" (at which Jake wonders sarcastically whether this guy's the Joker), but the phrase is marked as thought-speak. The human-Controller can't be thought-speaking.

  • Another error was that at one point Cassie's narration referred to Aftran with a male pronoun--mentioned that the Yeerk could "call his superiors." But everywhere else, including from Karen who shared Aftran's thoughts for the longest time, Aftran is referred to as "she." It's not really clear at this point whether Yeerks have gender or sex, or whether their gender concepts are simply male and female, but so far there hasn't been a mismatch between Yeerk and host in how they're referred to in gender, so it's possible the Yeerk becomes feminine in the way it thinks of itself if it has a female host, and so on.

  • It seems a bit illogical that changing from a caterpillar to a butterfly would reset the morphing clock. It's not different DNA, and it's also not like Cassie only became a butterfly once she emerged. At what point did the clock start ticking? It seems like a very weak justification for letting her actually think she was making this sacrifice and then giving her a cheap cheat (though of course it's wonderful that she got to do it).

  • It seems odd that a Yeerk was planted strategically in the daughter of a powerful banker in order to watch him, and then when Aftran defected and decided to "set the girl free," no one seemed to worry that she would be missed. Wouldn't they wonder why Aftran never reported on Karen's father's activities, or why the little girl never reported to the Yeerk pool anymore? Seems odd that Aftran could just go back to the Yeerk pool unnoticed, even for a short time.

Best lines:

Marco: "You know, back when we started all this, it was me who didn't want to get involved. And you all acted like I was a big coward, or else selfish."
Cassie: "So I'm a coward. I'm selfish."

Cassie: "Rachel, we can still be--"
Rachel: "No, we can't. See, you've just said the whole world can drop dead, so long as you, Cassie, don't have to end up turning into me."

Aftran: "Now I know you're an Andalite. Typical Andalite arrogance. The only race in the entire galaxy that makes war 'to help people.'"

Jake: Marco said something he didn't really mean about Cassie not being an Animorph anymore, so she wasn't our problem. Rachel knocked him on his butt. Marco is my best friend, but there are times I admire Rachel's directness.

Tobias: "There's always a choice. I can't get mad at someone not wanting to take a life. I can't get mad at someone for thinking life is sacred. I just can't."

Jake: "If we win and someday it's all over, you'd better hope there are still plenty of Cassies in the world. You'd better hope that not everyone has decided it's okay to do whatever it takes to win."

Jake: One thing a leader does is try to understand his people.

Jake: "I guess sometimes you have to choose between smart, sane ruthlessness, and totally stupid, insane hope. You can't just pick one and stick with it, either. Each time it comes up, you have to try and make your best decision. Most of the time, I guess I have to go with being smart and sane. But I don't want to live in a world where people don't try the stupid, crazy, hopeful thing sometimes."

Rachel: "Cassie was my best friend. I'm not going to be the one to call her a fool."



Next book: The Discovery, Animorphs #20

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