Book: The Beginning (Animorphs #54)
Author: K. A. Applegate

< >The thought of this book makes tears well up in my eyes and I want to crawl into a dark corner, letting myself sob until I can cry no more. That is how deeply this book affected me, that is how deeply this series has affected me, that is how deeply touched I am.

< >For the last five years of my life, every month has been about begging my parents for that coveted $4.99 and a drive down to Underwood's Bookhouse - for three years - and Barnes and Noble - in Southern California for the last two years, after my beloved shop shut down - to buy the latest Animorph book. Every month has been about reading the first few chapters of the book by car light as we drove home, flipping the pages first so I could see the little animation at the bottom of the page, and running my hands over the enticing cover, all this showing me into a world that both fascinated and frightened me. Every month has been about sitting in bed, on the couch - and even the toilet - turning the pages so quickly words were comprehended yet blurred. Every month has been about going online to some message board with other crazed fans and talk about the books or going to websites like Morphz or TNGTA to find the latest news on the next book.

< >I've made lasting friendships online with kids all across America who I met because of Animorphs. I never would have met them if it wasn't for the books, nor would I have spent so much time getting to know them. It was great and comforting to know I wasn't the only one in the world who disliked the fake people in the world and thought of them nearly the same as I did. People like Nothlit, Chris, Slime the Sly, Jahar9, Draca, and evil kittin shaped my first understanding of people who were to be my friends, compansions, soulmates. Thought I've lost contact with all six, the people I met after them, really because of them, still run through my life. I started a website with four girls - Giuli, Lee, Lesley, and Julie - about the Animorphs TV show ("AniTV" - which we hated and tried to slaughter with wands, spoons, and mango-colored cows, if that's humanly possible). Zoe, Reese, Pare, Miki, Reikaru, and I still fire snowballs and pillows at each other occasionally in the "Cornflake Chat". We all tell each other things that we'd never say aloud to even a close 'real life' friend, for its somewhat simpler than having to live with the fear that our words will be told to someone we see. It's also comforting to know we can confide in someone or some people who think sporks are the most interesting things in the world. Our friendships together are built on that sort of trust, compatibility, and jokes - and all of us plan to meet each other one day at Chicago O'Hare (just for laughs). To think we all know each other because of Animorphs.

< >The books have also shaped my emoition life more dramatically than anything. When I began reading the books in June of 1996 (May 1996: "Eww, those covers are ugly, Mom, I will not read them!"), the characters of Jake, Rachel, Tobias, Cassie, Marco - and yes, even Ax - brought me kindly into their world. Did I ever have to ask to be apart of their group? Did I ever have to sidle up to them, trying to act cool, popular, and too old for my age? No, I never had. And that was a blessing, for it helped me deal with the pressure of schoollife. The personalities of these characters were as versatile as I was to my peers. So much so that I simply drank the stories in to wash away the age-old stupor of "I must be cool, I must be popular!"

< >I carried within me inhibitions and had problems, I knew, but so did these amazing characters - and oh, how I related to them during fifth, sixth, even seventh grade. Jake, his ability to stand up to people in dire situations. Rachel, her callousness, her anger toward society and the people discouraging her intelligence. Tobias, his aloofness, individuality, and need to be alone, even in a crowd. Cassie, her love and care for the animals we both thought were better than humans. Marco, his oddly shaped sense of humor and hidden frailty. Ax, his arrogance brought upon by a sentient species - like humans - who think they dominate, and his innocence despite a cruel, ugly world.

< >Maybe it seems stupid and eccentric to have let a children's book series run rampant through my life, but I don't really think it is stupid or insane. Letting a book series, or even just a book, affect you and shape your life is a good thing. It brings structure and, like I was, books tell you that individuality is a good thing, teach you self-confidence, and show how to beat your way through life, even if you only have a spork in hand. So for those months upon months of reading books about the human condition, confidence and inner-strength and individuality built themselves into my life.

< >Alas, those sixty months of relentless driving, spending (with the other off-series books, the total comes to about $318.40, without tax or gas prices), talking, and reading have finally come to a close. Yes, nevermore will I buy an Animorph book to read - if I ever buy another one at all, it will be to replace a beat-up copy I will still keep - nor will I buy an Animorph poster, bookmark, school folder, or ever conjure up an Animorph website, unless to say goodbye to a dear friend.

< >This brings me to why I cry over The Beginning, the last book in a series that has been a part of my life for a third of the years on this planet. I cried in the carride home and could barely stop, nearly wanting to go on. I feel as if I've lost a part of myself that can never be replaced. Of course, I have the books on my shelf, but the ritual is done, is finished, is gone. I no longer have an excuse to buy the books that have sustained me for five years. There is no point in buying extra copies, really, since they're now leftovers on a shelf in the back of the Barnes and Noble Jr.'s section, looming there until some manager decides in a year that the books are worthless and dumps them into storage or worse. Why would I want to think about that? It would make me cry more.

< >The Beginning is the "coming-of-age tale" (or best way I can describe it) for the Animorphs. Lost in their feeble, chaotic world with only one chance to win at hand (unfortunately, sporks don't work to well against Mesozoic-like alien creatures with slugs in their brains), the Animorphs have to make the ultimate sacrifice: Kill one of their own to save the human race. This is what makes everything harder - Rachel is killed in the first thirty-six pages, just after she kills her cousin - Tom, Jake's brother - so they can properly save everyone from the Yeerks, the parasitic race trying to destroy and control all in their path. Almost like the Borg of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, but more deadly, since the humans aren't exactly up to Captain Picard speed. She is killed by a Controller in polar bear morph (capable because of Cassie's earlier mistake), who painstakingly takes the time to tell her, "You fight well, human," and murders her. Stunned, the reader will sit there for a long time. Ominously, the last words of the page state, "And then he killed me," and one just wonders why.

< >The rest of the story is just as tripe and short. The war ends as Marco announces to the Andalite home world and government that Jake is the President of Earth, and - by the way - they have Visser One and will be keeping him for some time. Jake wanders around aimlessly (did he ever find his parents? We don't know) until he's recruited by the army and tires of television interviews; Rachel's mother, father, and sisters all but disappear; Cassie is a rabid environmentalist who keeps close tabs on the Hork-Bajir living in Yellowstone; Marco is more or less a pimp (wait, I can't say that in an English paper; ahem, he likes to get around) and is an actor for, remarkably, the Fox channel; and Ax? Who knows? He whisks himself home in three pages and is never heard from again. Also, for those of who have common sense, when it is noted the Animorphs had been living in Southern California for their duration, many listlessly point out the dozens of reasons this isn't possible and how stupid our author, Ms. Kathryn Alice Applegate, is and where she needs to go.

< >Which brings me to another turn-around in the life of Animorphs. I, along with others, am disgusted by K. A. Applegate and detest her sorely. I cannot stand the author who I gave an income for five years and cannot believe I allowed myself to in the first place. For some time, I have considered Ms. Applegate a traitor to authors and readers everywhere. I have many four-, five-, and even six-letter words I use to describe her, but those are only spoken in private settings with friends. She used ghostwriters up until the very last book (which she ever-so graciously wrote herself) to write her series and at the first book she used a ghostwriter, I lost all respect for her. The only reason that I didn't stop buying her books and giving her a salary was because I was too afraid of losing some of the only magic I felt at the time. A year after that, half-heartedly and half-begrudgingly, I dragged myself to the bookstore in which to pull at least a sliver of the true life left in Animorphs into my heart, wishing every time for something better but always knowing I would get worst.

< >The Beginning was K. A. Applegate's way of cheerfully and shortly saying, "G'bye!" and for her to end a series obviously "too tiring" for her to handle. She also used the book to plug her next series (subsequently ending Everworld first after twelve books, and Animorphs after some sixty-three) called Remnants, all about the world blowing up and a guy named Jobs. Steve Jobs is a guy she likes; Bill Gates is someone she hates, so you wonder where she got the analogy. She ripped the sporks from her fan's semi-enthusiastic hands and pushed each so far into our guts that we couldn't even cry. We were at her disposal, for if she even moved the plastic utensil a millimeter, we were dead, and at the time, we couldn't fathom life without her or Animorphs. So we let her torment of uninformed ghostwriters and clichés go on with us cringing yet ever-begrudingly follow her along.

< >So no matter how much you hate the book and its author, as I do, you whisper to yourself, "I love this book," only because you must. Otherwise, you will breakdown in utter frustration and tears, condemning yourself for hating the last book of your coveted, beloved series that has been with you for so long. The thought of even this is excruciatingly sorrowful and tear-jerking, in more ways than one. You can't believe Animorphs is ending, you don't believe it - and yet, you're happy it's ending, and you're happy to believe it. After the some of the happiest moments in our lives turned excruciatingly hideous - revolting in their absolutely unsightliness - it's a wonder the fans don't just drop dead in exhaustion.

< >Alas, despite all arguments, I love Animorphs. I do love it, no matter how much I can put it down for foul editing, senile storylines, and childish writing on account of the author (who will furthermore remain nameless). Animorphs has shaped my life for five years. Five years. I scarcely remember what I had for dinner tonight, but I will always remember the first time I saw the first and second books on display in the now-gone bookstore. I will always remember the first time I read them - in Monterey, California, riding along Pacific Coast Highway and the seventeen-mile drive. I will always remember where I got nearly every book - the Bookhouse, Borders, Barnes and Noble. I will always remember the excitement I had for reading the books. I will always remember my devotion to the lovely yet corrupt series. I will always remember Animorphs for their first and last battles. I will always remember how Animorphs helped me grow from a dysfunctional (sometimes even ruthless) child into the person I am today: someone who is intelligent, strong, healthy, emotional, understanding, helpful occasionally nasty but forever loving. And last but certainly not least, I will always remember Animorphs for the life it gave me, including my spork, and I will always keep the books close to my heart. Always and forever.





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