Animorphs #12: “The Reaction” by K.A. Applegate
Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, November 1997
Where Did I Get this Book: own it!
Book Description: Rachel’s got some pretty strange stuff happening. She can’t control her morphing. One minute, she’s doing homework. The next, she’s morphing a full-grown crocodile, and — without returning to human form — she becomes an elephant. That’s when the floor gives way and Rachel finds herself looking up at what used to be the kitchen ceiling.
What’s going on? No one’s sure, but Rachel and the other Animorphs have to figure it out — quickly. Because if someone sees Rachel’s out-of-control morphing, the other Animorphs and Ax are in some serious trouble…
Plot: The story starts out in typical Rachel-fashion: jumping into a crocodile pit at the zoo! To be fair, she does it to save a small boy who has fallen in, and this is exactly what she tells Jake when he rants at her later at Cassie’s farm about “exposing them all” when the “friendly crocodile” gave the kid a ride out and drew notice. And in a book full of Rachel making really rash decisions, this one is pretty understandable! Pretty sure they all would have done it, but Rachel has a history of rashness (morphing elephant at both a used car lot and at the zoo, to make animal rights points), so the hammer always seems to come down on her a bit more for this type of stuff.
All of it seems to be mostly put to bed, until Rachel gets home and suddenly, unwillingly, starts morphing elephant in her own room. This, unsurprisingly, brings down the house and she is only just able to get control of herself and morph back before her sisters and mom show up. Between this and the crocodile escapade (people thought she also fell in), she gets quite a lot of local news attention. Rachel, being Rachel, decides that this is just some strange one-off and keeps the whole weird morphing to herself.
The main plot of the story gets tied in when the Animorphs discover that the Yeerks are quite interested in a certain teenage boy actor, one Jeremy Jason McCole. So, I haven’t talked much about the dated aspects of the book, because for the most part they’re just random mentions of VCRs and such, but this is a big one. Teenage super stars are no thing specific to any decade. I mean, we have Beiber and the Jonas Brothers and all that, now-ish. But this one’s pretty hilarious for anyone who grew up in the 90s, as it is a clear and direct reference to Jonathan Taylor Thomas. I mean, you’ve got the name with the rhyming ring to it, and past that, they even discuss the show he is on which has to do with family and, you guessed it, construction. This is such a direct and obvious call out that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud every time I read about it. Which was a lot, since it was the main focus of the story. So, sure, this will read fine to new readers picking up the books today, but without the 90s memories of “Home Improvement” and the JTT madness, much of the humor of this will be lost. But I got it all! And love it.
Anyways, Cassie and Rachel are the only ones who truly understand how bad it would be if Jeremy Jason was to be made a Controller and started promoting The Sharing. After they very strictly made this point to poor, clueless Jake and Marco (while throwing in the fact that boy, wouldn’t it be fun to scout out this situation anyways!), the team decide to morph seagulls, fly out to Jeremy’s yacht (cuz of course he has a yacht), and see what’s what. Turns out that Visser Three himself is there wooing Jeremy Jason to become a willing Controller. Much of the love for Jeremy Jason is thus instantly evaporated for poor Rachel and Cassie.
With perfect timing, Rachel’s morphing issue strikes again and she falls from the air, somehow morphing directly from seagull to other animals (luckily, conveniently, so that the Controllers don’t find out they’re all human). After escaping from another of Visser Three’s freaky morphs (some type of javelin-throwing sea creature that Rachel is able to “pop” by biting it in her croc morph), Rachel’s little problem is outed. Ax, of course, knows a bit about it and it turns out that Rachel is allergic to crocodiles, and will continue to have this morphing issue until she somehow mysteriously “expels” the DNA.
Now knowing that the Jeremy Jason thing is a serious problem, Rachel decides to take advantage of her moment of stardom as “disaster girl” and get on the same local TV program that will be featuring Jeremy Jason. They will then…somehow stop him from promoting The Sharing?? To do this, however, she lies to her friends and says that the whole allergy thing was taken care of, DNA expelled, she’s ready to go.
So, of course, while they’re all at the TV studio, Rachel’s croc problem goes live and she begins growing a crocodile out of her back (apparently what Ax meant by “expel DNA” was grow a full, live crocodile out of oneself that will detach and then just…be there). This leads to much mania and confusion (Marco morphs a llama, Cassie morphs Rachel, a wild croc is loose), and they are only saved from complete discovery by the fact that there also happened to be a zoologist scheduled for the show and the wild animals running everywhere are thought to be his. Through this all, the Yeerk (bizarrely) decides to bail out of Jeremy Jason, and Rachel steps on it accidentally. Jeremy Jason than flees to Asia after deciding that this whole Controller thing wasn’t quite what it was cracked up to be. The end!
Xena, Warriar Princess: Rachel’s strengths and weaknesses are fully shown in this book. Like a wounded animal, she doesn’t like to let others see when she’s hurting or confused, which leads to much of the craziness from her not asking for help with her morphing issue right away. Later, when she also lies about having expelled the DNA, we see another example of her hiding things from the others. This time, however, we can also see that this is tied up with the fact that she understands her role in the group. She’s the brave one, the one who often helps push the others into action, and to do what they hesitate to do. She, partly rightly I think, worries that without her, the others would struggle with this, and many, missions.
She’s also incredibly brave. When Visser Three is coming after them in the ocean, she plays dead and attacks him when he gets close, giving the others time to flee. She often puts herself in these roles where her own survival is called into question to save her friends.
The other notable feature of this book was the direct tie between her reaction to her croc allergy and her ability to keep control of her emotions, specifically anger. I know that this is a recurring theme in the Rachel books: her anger is what makes her powerful and brave, but it can also really hurt her. Some of the later books get quite silly with this, I think, almost jumping the shark with her character. But this was a good look at this issue as it begins to play a bigger role in Rachel’s character and arc throughout the series.
Our Fearless Leader: Poor, poor Jake. After the last book which focused on the tough realities of being a leader, here we have this one where the poor guy has to deal with crazies like Rachel who just go ahead and don’t tell the whole group relevant information that then leads to even worse scenarios, that he then has to make a call on, mid-mission. All cuz of Rachel’s bad decision making.
<No, it’s much better to find out this way, Rachel. You know – when youcould get us all killed,> Jake said.
Other than this, it was funny reading about Jake and Marco’s endless discomfort with the girls’ infatuation with Jeremy Jason McCole. When they first decide to scout out the yacht more closely, this is Jake’s original plan:
<Marco and I will go in close, land on the boat like any ordinaryseagulls, see what we overhear,> Jake went on. <Rachel and Cassie, youcan be backup. Stay -><Yeah, right,> I jeered. <You and Marco go. Me and Cassie stay away.Yeah, that’s really going to happen. Come on, Cassie, we’re going in.>
A Hawk’s Life: Was Tobias even in this book?? Thank god his book is coming up next and SPOILER this problem gets mostly solved. But not too solved, gotta keep a hold on the massive corner of the teenage tragedy market that is Tobias’s life.
Peace, Love, and Animals: Why Cassie?! Why are you such a fun character in Rachel books, but then become the most stick-ish of sticks in the mud during your own books?? It drives me nuts. Cassie was actually a blast in this book, and her friendship with Rachel is definitely me favorite platonic relationship (others being Marco/Jake and Tobias/Ax). They had a lot of good moments just being girls about Jeremy Jason, and it was fun to read. Cassie was also quick to always correct any mistaken identification of the crocodile as an alligator, too, thus fulfilling her “animal facts” quota for the book.
A fun example of their thoughts on the boys’ reaction to Jeremy Jason:
<It’s so sad to hear so much jealousy, don’t you agree, Cassie?><It is sad, Rachel. Terribly sad.><This is the worst mission we’ve ever been on,> Marco said.
The Comic Relief: Marco gets some good comedic moments in this one (what’s new), when he decides to abandon Jake with the whole “morph a bug” plan while scouting out the TV studio and just morph a convenient llama that was wandering around from the zoologist’s program. I mean, any excuse not to go bug, ammiright? Lots of quips about llama fur and llama spit and llama behavior ensued and it was great. Most impressive, however, was when things went south with the now-detached croc, Marco, in llama morph, did a mad rush at it. For all of his comedy moments, Marco is one of the bravest members of the group and my love for him only grows! He also has a fun moment in the end of the book with Rachel and some more “Xena” nods.
E.T./Ax Phone Home: Ax, too, plays a significant role in handling the loose croc situation and essentially takes it out of play all on his own. Rachel makes some pretty clear comments about how she’s been impressed by Ax in the past, but this moment really highlighted the strength and speed of Andalites, raising him to a new level in her eyes.
Best (?) Body Horror Moment: Hands down, the “expelling” of the crocodile DNA. I mean, there were pages and pages of descriptions of the very slow process that was the crocodile growing its way out of Rachel’s back and finally dropping off, fully formed. I mean, just think about that whole experience. Or, better yet, don’t.
Couples Watch!: Man, for a book told from the perspective of one of the four characters involved in a couple-ish situation, there was very little to go on here! Maybe a few private asides from Tobias, but we got zero, ZERO, bedroom visits by hawk!Tobias, something that I remember clearly associating with this couple and as happening fairly often in their books. But nope! Nothing! Very disappointing. But the next book is his, so hopefully we’ll see an improvement there. For this book, I just had to fall back on my secondary Marco/Rachel fixation.
If Only Visser Three had Mustache to Twirl: It was strange having Visser Three sucking up to Jeremy Jason McCole, essentially. Didn’t really seem like his usual style of “do first, ask never.” I guess the idea was to highlight how much easier it is on the Yeerks, especially the one controlling someone, if the host is willing? But still, there are more than enough examples of forced-Controllers and in a situation like this where this one, very specific person is needed, it seems like Visser Three wouldn’t have given a hoot what the potential host wanted. But at least he had a relevant morph for chasing the Animorphs again! The javelin-shooting beast (Ax wasn’t paying attention in school to know all about it. Typical.) was a pretty good adversary, all told. Except for that “burst balloon” action there at the end.
The fact that they Yeerks then just let Jeremy Jason run off to Asia to hide also seems highly unlikely. I guess they figured that he wasn’t likely to say anything about it without sounding like a crazy person. But why not just re-capture him and go on with the original plan of using him as a spokesperson for The Sharing?
Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: This didn’t have a whole lot in the “feels” department. It was a pretty wacky story, bookended by an even wackier morphing allergy. Even the side plot with Rachel’s family seemed fine. It’s clear that she still has a good relationship with her father, and the brief moments with her sisters, especially her fear that they may have been hurt when the house collapses, were nice. All in all, just a kind of fun adventure!
What a Terrible Plan, Guys!: I mean, I’m pretty sure Rachel just straight up admits that they have no plan whatsoever when it comes to trying to mess up the Jeremy Jason TV spot. Beyond the lack of plan there, Rachel herself knows there is even less of a plan since she was the only one who know that the crocodile allergy hadn’t exactly been taken care of. All of the luck, all of the time!
Rachel sums up her own character:
But the thing about fear is you can’t be afraid of it. I know that sounds confusing. I guess what I mean is, be afraid if you have to, right? Fear is like this vicious little worm that lives inside you and eats you alive. You have to fight it. You have to know it’s there. You have to accept that you’ll never get rid of it, but fight it just the same. Brave isn’t about not being afraid. It’s about being scared to death and still not giving in.
Scorecard: Yeerks 3, Animorphs 5
No points awarded! I guess the Animorphs technically pulled off their plan of stopping Jeremy Jason from being taken. But really, if I was going to award points for their success in that, it would be 1 point for the crocodile.
Rating: Pretty good! Lacking in much sustenance, but a fun read none the less. I can excuse wackiness when it leads to a fun story. But when wackiness is combined with dramatic nonsense *cough”The Secret”cough*…
Note: I’m not going to rate these books since I can’t be objective at all! But I’ll give a one sentence conclusion and you can take from that what you will!