Animorphs #20: “The Discovery” by K.A. Applegate
Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, August 1998
Where Did I Get this Book: own it!
Book Description: The blue box Elfangor used to create the Animorphs has been found by a kid named David. David has no idea what he has — or what it can do. But Marco does. And when he sees David with it, he knows the Animorphs have to get that box. At any cost.
Plot: Guys. GUYS! It’s the David trilogy! Finally! The three book mini series that is widely agreed by fans to be the best part of the entire series! I’ll try and keep it together, but…
I’m sure most people who are following along with my read-through have read the Animorph series themselves. But, for any newbies out there, there will probably be spoilers in this and the next review for this entire three book arc. Knowing where it’s all going just makes reading these all the better!
So, the story starts out with Marco trying to pick up girls in the halls of his school. This goes about as well as you’d expect. But then he notices David, the new kid at school, shoving the one and only blue box, the one that Elfangor used to give them all their morphing abilities, into his locker. Internally panicking, Marco approaches David and tries to cozy up with him and ask about the box. Turns out David found it stashed in a cement brick at the construction site, and no, he won’t sell it to Marco for a piddly dollar and change.
The group meets up later at Burger King to stalk David, knowing that it is imperative that they get the blue box from him. While there, Erek, our friendly Chee spy, shows up and adds to their pile of concerns, saying there will be an international summit of sorts in their city in the next few days. All the big world leaders will be there, and, of course, the Yeerks will be set on infesting some of these powerful people. More worryingly, Erek knows that at least one leader is already a Controller, but doesn’t know which one. Storing this fun thought in the back of their heads, the group draws straws for who will nab the blue box from David’s room. (Tobias has been scouting and saw an open window, but came back per orders. Think about, if he had just grabbed it then, this entire story arc could have never happened! Tobias should always take the initiative, that’s what we’re learning here.)
Marco, Rachel, and Tobias end up going. Isn’t it always Marco, Rachel and Tobias?? Cuz they’re so great together!
“You and me, Xena,” I said. Rachel arched one eyebrow at me. “You know, if I’m Xena, what’s that make you?” “Hercules, obviously.” “I was thinking more Joxer. Isn’t that the annoying weenie who hangs around Xena?”
There’s a mini scene where Marco almost gets caught while morphing a bird in the bathroom, and Jake has to pretend he’s his very little brother who is suffering from an illness called “beakanoma.” But eventually, the three of them end up outside of David’s room. Rachel’s eagle is too big to maneuver, so Tobias and Marco go in. Tobias’s warning about the pole propping open the window comes too late, and Marco gets trapped in the room (Tobias hits the window and is dazed throughout this entire scene). Marco ends up in the room with David’s cat. Marco doesn’t do well, so Rachel decides to crash through the window to “rescue” him. They grab the blue box, but right then, David bursts in. The two take off flapping down the hall trying to haul away the blue box and chased by David and the cat. They ultimately have to drop the box to escape.
The next day at school, David approaches Marco at lunch to tell him all about the “trained birds” who had tried to steal the box. And how now, knowing that people must want it, he’s posted it for sale online and already has an interested party. He’s set up a timed email to go out at the end of school to let the buyer know his address. Marco sees this for what it is: the Yeerks will be showing up to get the blue box if that email goes out. Jake tells him to skip last period and try to take care of it. He picks up Tobias and Ax on his way, and the group once again infiltrates David’s house. Marco accidentally triggers the home alarm, and he and Ax have to rush to David’s room to hide from David’s dad who arrives to see what’s wrong. In the room, they see that the email is timed to go out in three minutes. But not only is David’s dad coming, but David’s pet cobra is loose in the room and under the bed where Marco is hiding (Ax is in the closet). Marci manages to acquire the snake, and then, caught up in the morph, eats spider!Ax. Ax must demorph quickly to avoid the venom from Marco, and David’s dad sees him. Throughout this all, they realize the email has gone out, and the Yeerks are arriving.
The craziness just gets worse when David shows up, having skipped out early from school. Ultimately, David’s bedroom becomes a battle scene between Hork Bajir, the Animorphs, David’s dad with a gun, and Visser Three who morphs a huge purple alien that can shoot sharp cones out of its four arms. The other Animorphs show up to provide support, and through it all, they manage to grab the blue box, and haul away David. They retreat to an alley. They know that David’s Dad and Mom will be Controllers by this time, and that if David returns, that will happen to him. Ax suggests that they have another option: use the blue box to make David one of them. (We can now all blame this entire episode on Ax’s brilliant suggestion. But then he goes and votes against it later, so, whatcha doing Ax, even bringing it up??)
The group discusses the pros and cons of this, noting that unlike the rest of them when they first became Animorphs, none of them really know David at all. Marco is the most suspicious of him, and given that he’s interacted with him the most, this should maybe have carried more weight than it ultimately does.
Ax votes no, based on the fact that they don’t know him, and that they have a big mission coming up. Marco votes no. But is surprised when Rachel votes yes. Cassie & Tobias vote yes, and Jake decides it.
Back in the barn they explain the harsh reality to David. It’s a lot to take in and Marco insists that they don’t cushion him from the truth. David is very resistant to listening to them.
David looked sullen. “It’s all a trick.” I shot a look at Rachel. She looked like she was already regretting her vote.
But after Ax demorphs, he has to believe. Marco takes him to his house for the night. In the middle of the night, he catches David trying to call home. He leads him to a nearby pay phone and warns him that his parents will sound normal, but just to ask how they can explain what happened in his room. David calls and his parents claim that it was just a trick played on them by guys from work. Marco abruptly ends the call and drags David away, warning that the Yeerks will be on their way. Sure enough, they show up, but Jake arrives in rhino morph (one of the few times we see him use it!), and chases them off. Marco reveals that the others have been watching his house and they followed them to the pay phone for just this reason (they’ve really wizened up at this point).
The next day it begins to really set in that things are going to be hard with David. Sure he’s a new Animorph, but he’s a human kid who the Yeerks will recognize, unlike the rest of them. He can’t go home, he can’t go to school, he can’t go anywhere. They decide to get him his first morphs, and Cassie brings in a merlin bird for David to acquire, but David wants to larger, more powerful golden eagle. They explain that they’ve had problems with the size of Rachel’s bald eagle, and that’s why this one is better (again, more evidence that really highlights how far this group has come with regards to their strategy and competence with this war). David pushes back, harder than they appreciate. Marco snaps at him to stop being a jerk and to respect Jake as a leader. David gives a speech about either being part of the group or not, and Marco has to respect this, even though he still doesn’t like David. Cassie takes David to get a power morph from the Gardens.
Later, they all morph bird to go scout out the resort where the summit is going to be held. David loves his bird morph, but suddenly dives and kills a crow (like the maniac he is!!!). He claims that he got caught in the morph, and the others believe him; Cassie even comforts him. But Marco can sense the lie and knows that David just killed a crow in cold blood for no reason.
But they don’t have time to focus on that, as several cloaked Yeerk ships show up and nab the President’s helicopter. The group frantically try to scoot onto the Blade ship as well; they all make it except for Tobias and Rachel who are stuck outside. Crammed beneath the helicopter, the team has no choice but to morph cockroach (Cassie made David get one of these, too). They tell him to close his eyes and go with it. He keeps them open, however, and starts to scream when he witnesses the albeit truly disgusting scene that is the others morphing bugs. Cassie steps up with her manipulation skills.
<Do it, David,> she said. <l know it’s creepy, but it’s better than being dead. Besides, we’ve all done it. Marco has done it. He’s not screaming like a baby, is he? Aren’t you as tough as Marco?>I’d never seen this exact side of Cassie. She’s always good at understanding people. It hadn’t occurred to me she’d be good at manipulating people if she had to.
Marco knows that this will just make David hate him more, but as he’s not David’s biggest fan, either, and he knows that this was the only way to get David to finish his morph, he goes with it. Avoiding being stomped and gassed by Raid, the team manages to get up to the top level of the ship and overhear Visser Three saying he will now acquire the President. Unable to do anything about this, they return to the helicopter, figuring the Yeerks will now simply let it continue on its way. But they forget that the latch they are standing on beneath the helicopter will open to release it. They all fall. END SCENE!
I remember this first cliffhanger in an Animorphs book simply ruining me as a kid! It’s a big move, and one that probably would have only worked as well as it did at this point in the series when the books were at the height of their popularity and almost all readers were clearly bought in enough to stick it out another month for the next book.
The Comic Relief: Marco is an excellent narrator for the first book in this arc. By this point in the series, readers know that Marco is one of the more clear-eyed characters when it comes to evaluating the character of otherse. Cassie and Jake can be more optimistic than is warranted. Rachel doesn’t give two craps about analyzing other people’s motives. Tobias is fairly disconnected from humanity at this point. And Ax just does what Jake tells him to do. But Marco, we know Marco will tell it how it is. So, as this book progresses, because we’re seeing everything through Marco’s ever suspicious eyes, we know never to completely buy in to David. Like Marco, we don’t know exactly what is wrong, but we know that something is.
Beyond David just being the little jerk that he is, it also makes the most sense that Marco would be the most suspicious of a new person. Not only was he (and Rachel) the longest hold out on Ax, but he also mentions in this book his own process of “buying in” to the war and how long a journey that was for him. With this in mind, he knows that not everyone will just jump on board with their mission and this war in general. It’s a lot to ask.
Marco is a very level-headed narrator throughout this all. And this book once again confirms why his narration and books have been my favorite this read through. I almost wish that Marco could have just narrated the entire David arc. I think it would have been really interesting see all of these events unfold through his perspective.
Our Fearless Leader: Ultimately, the vote about whether or not to have David join comes down to Jake. He notes how big of a decision and risk this is. I found myself wondering if he was more willing to take this huge risk because this is just following Cassie’s last big risk (trusting Aftran) and knowing that that turned out well. So maybe he’s just more primed for optimism that usual.
But I think that Jake also begins to start worrying a little about David even in this book, especially when David pushes so hard for the golden eagle morph. Jake, and the group, have a clear understanding of how these things go and the factors behind how they make decisions. They’ve learned from Rachel’s eagle morph that big birds aren’t as useful. So they’re all put off by his unwillingness to listen or trust the expertise of others. The group trusts Jake; David doesn’t. The group respects Jake; David just wants the “cooler bird.”
Xena, Warrior Princess: It’s always fun seeing Marco and Rachel together in action. The two simply play well off each other. She saves his butt during the first trip into David’s room, but then takes the surprising “yes” position on whether to include David or not.
In some ways this makes sense, she’s one of the more bold members. But it’s also clear that she’s the most hesitant about her vote, clearly understanding and mostly agreeing with Marco’s qualms. And she’s also quick to be put off and perhaps regret her vote by David’s bad attitude about being told the truth.
Again, knowing where this arc is heading just makes it all the more sad witnessing what goes on in this book. She takes an almost uncharacteristic risk on David, and she pays the biggest price for it, in the end.
A Hawk’s Life: Poor Tobias, again not getting as much action as the rest. He slams into the window that Marco accidentally closes in the first mission to David’s and spends the rest of the chapter dazed and thinking he’s playing a game of “Clue.”
He’s also very put off by the golden eagle and the fact that David wants to morph it, knowing that golden eagles will go after other birds. And, what do you know, when David first morphs it and loses himself to the bird’s mind, he does try to go after Tobias (foreshadowing!!), and is only stopped by Cassie grabbing him until he gets it figured out.
And then Tobias and Rachel end up locked out of the Blade ship, so they miss out on all that action.
Peace, Love, and Animals: When they’re first in the Burger King discussing what to do, there’s a brief moment with Marco refers to Cassie’s quitting in the last book.
I took a good, long look at Cassie. See, there was this little episode with Cassie. She quit the Animorphs because I guess she had problems with some of the stuff we have to do. She came back, of course. But since then I’d felt a little shaky around her.
This speaks pretty true to Marco’s less trusting nature. You break his trust once, and it takes a bit to come back. But as we saw earlier, he’s very impressed by Cassie’s ability to manipulate David when he’s freaking out about morphing cockroach. And he also references the fact that it’s hard to hold a long grudge against someone who has saved your life on more than one occasion.
Cassie is all for making David an Animorph and the general possibilities of making more Animorphs all together. She also completely believes David when he claims that he got caught up in the eagle’s mind when he kills the crow and tries to comfort him.
E.T./Ax Phone Home: So, as I mentioned, Ax is the one to first suggest letting David join the group using the blue box (or the Escafil Device, as he calls it). But then when it comes down to a vote, he’s against it.
“We are not an army. We are a guerrilla group,” he said. “Guerrilla, gorilla? The differences between the two words are very subtle. You humans should not make your words so … But my point is, going from six members to seven will not make us much stronger, and it carries risk. Risssss-kuh…we should start with someone we understand. Not a stranger. We have this mission before us, to save the human leaders of your various countries. A seventh person might help us. But it might also make our team indecisive, uncertain.”
This makes a lot of sense for Ax’s thought process. He’s a soldier at heart and knows that numbers alone don’t necessarily strengthen a small group, especially one that relies so much on trusting each other and being able to predict each other’s choices.
Best (?) Body Horror Moment: When Marco morphs a bird in the bathroom, he gets to experience the new gross horror that is having his hand bones just shoot out, free of any skin. Also, when he morphs the cobra there are some lovely descriptions of what it feels like to have your organs just sag down, unsupported by the usual bones and muscle that hold them in place.
David’s freak out, while obnoxious, does remind the other what it was like the first time they morphed bug. They’re all still grossed out by it, but they’re also fairly accustomed to it at this point. Having David see it all for the first time really hits it home how bad it still is.
Couples Watch!: Not a lot with our traditional pair ups, but Marco, too, comments on the fact that he and Rachel often end up on the same side of things.
It’s weird, somehow, the way Rachel and I often end up on the same side. She likes Tobias more than me, and Cassie a lot more than me, but it’s often the two of us together on big issues.
If Only Visser Three had Mustache to Twirl: Visser Three introduces yet another terrifying alien morph with the cone-handed purple monster of death. It’s also worth nothing that his ego mania is once again on display with their plan with the President. They decide not to simply infest him, because heaven forbid that some lowly other Yeerk have a powerful host body. Nope! Instead, Visser Three will simply morph him whenever they want to do things. This is such an awful plan, and you have to think that the other Visser higher ups who are critical of the way Visser Three is managing the Earth invasion must be able to point to stupid choices like this as evidence that he’s really bad for this job. I mean, this is nothing but ego, and they’re passing up an excellent opportunity to infest a world leader purely because of Visser Three’s power issues.
Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: As much as I hate David, you do have to feel bad for the position he finds himself in. The others all still have their families and their anonymity to fall back on. They can go home and go to school and to the mall and have friends. All of this helps support that horrible trauma that is fighting this war. What does David have? If David hadn’t turned into a complete psychopath, you have to wonder what the long term plan would have been? I mean, what kind of life could he have? And, as a human boy, he’s much less able to just “hide in the woods” like Ax and Tobias have been doing. It’s a pretty tough situation, not only practically, but for the emotional well-being of David. Not that that’s any excuse for him going crazy, but if he had been a nice guy to begin with, this situation would have been really tragic.
What a Terrible Plan, Guys!: Other than having the hindsight to know that making David an Animorph is probably the worst choice they make in the entire series, this book really highlights how smart the Animorphs have become throughout it all. They aren’t the confused kids from the first few books. They make smart choices with what they choose to acquire (suggesting the merlin based on their experience with the limitations of larger birds). They keep a watch on Marco’s house, suspecting that David might make a run for it or do something stupid. They quickly adapt when their simple scouting mission turns sideways and they need to infiltrate the Blade ship. And, as we’ll see in the next two books, the only reason they come out of this whole David situation ok is due to the fact that they’ve been around the block a few times. If this had happened earlier in the series, I’m not sure they would have made it.
Marco calls it right away, saying this when they’re debating making David an Animorph:
I spread my hands, pleading. “He names his cat Megadeth. He has a cobra named Spawn. What kind of a kid is that?”
This may seem like silly reasoning, but it all adds up when you think about the fact that not everyone is cut out to do what they do. Up to this whole episode, I don’t think they realized how lucky they are that their group is made up of the people it is.
Scorecard: Yeerks 5, Animorphs 9
A point for the Yeerks! Not only do we know that the David thing is not going to turn out well for our favorite team, but Visser Three successfully acquires the President, so in the only big movement in this war, the Yeekrs come out a head in this one.
Rating: I loved it. Is there any question? I love all three of these books. Like I said, Marco books are probably my favorite in the series in the read through, so combine that with the complete uniqueness and awesomeness that is the David trilogy, and you come away with one of my top books in the whole series!
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!