The Great Animorphs Re-Read #27: “The Exposed”

125341Animorphs #27: “The Exposed” by K.A. Applegate

Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, March 1999

Where Did I Get this Book: own it!

Book Description: To rescue their android friends, the Chee, the Animorphs must use a giant squid morph to get to the Chee ship deep in a trench beneath the ocean. And they must reach the ship before Visser Three does.

Narrator: Rachel

Plot: Again, another book that I remembered very little about. I mean…like nothing. I remember this cover, and the obvious fact that it has to do with them having to deep dive in the ocean for some reason. But since it’s a Rachel book, I knew going in that somehow things would get tense. Poor Rachel is never left off the hook as far as existential crises go.

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My general feelings towards Rachel and my own protectiveness of her! (source)

Rachel is feeling moody. Not only is she dismayed by her decreasing interest in things that she used to enjoy (like gymnastics), seeing this as further worrying proof of her enjoying battle a bit too much, but a cute guy named T.T. asks her out. And she hesitates. I mean, her current boyfriend is a hawk most of the time…Angry with herself, she turns to her one source of consistent relief: the mall. There, she runs into Cassie (shocking). As they wander, they see Erek. But something’s wrong, they’re seeing the REAL Erek, the android beneath the hologram. Knowing something is wrong, Cassie and Rachel manage to get him into a sci-fi store before he completely breaks down, losing not only the remnants of his hologram but his ability to move. Rachel calls for back up.

Jake and gorilla!Marco show up. They’re quick to claim that it’s just a very realistic gorilla suit as Marco hoists Erek up and hauls him out of the mall, onto a bus, and finally gets him back to his own home. There they discover that this is a world-wide breakdown for the Chee, all losing their holograms and ability to move. Erek and Mr. King theorize that something must have went wrong in the Pemalite ship which they hid at the bottom of the ocean a millennium or so ago. But before they deal with that, there are two Chee who weren’t able to hide themselves well. One is in a high security plant, somewhere the Animorphs will never be able to infiltrate. He will be discovered when the shift changes in 24 hours, giving the entire mission a short timeline. The other Chee was posing as a homeless person and is in an abandoned warehouse that the Chee know will be soon raided by police, some of whom are sure to be Controllers who will then get access to all Chee technology.

Quickly prioritizing things, Jake, Rachel, Marco, and Cassie head to the warehouse in various morphs, determined to get the Chee before she’s discovered. When they show up, the raid is just getting started. Rhino!Jake, elephant!Rachel, gorilla!Marco, and wolf!Cassie get to work. Things don’t go their way and they all get incredibly beaten up. Rachel is shot in the head, Cassie is paralyzed, Jake gets surrounded by cop cars. They only escape when Tobias and Ax show up, Tobias nabbing a gun and scaring the cops into hiding. Skunk!Ax cleans up the rest of them. They barely make it out, but do manage to return the Chee to the King household. From there, they begin fretting about reaching the Pemalite ship

They quickly realize that this is the most impossible mission they’ve been up against yet. None of their morphs can dive deep enough to reach the ship. Cassie says that a giant squid would be able to, but there are none in captivity. And to catch one themselves, they would need a sperm whale morph, also none in captivity. Through this all, the Animorphs have also started getting suspicious about the good luck they’ve had so far. Apparently all of the cameras were not functioning in the mall when they hauled Erek out, and there’s no word of anyone seeing them on the bus or walking around either. Defeated, they head home

At home, Rachel and her family are watching the news. They learn that just moments ago a sperm whale beached itself outside of the city. Rachel immediately calls BS on this. But she and the other Animorphs realize they have no choice but to play along with whatever force is aligning things like this. They fly to the beach. There Jake decides they will draw straws for the two will will acquire the whale. Rachel stares down Tobias until he caves and tells her which is the short straw. He then draws one himself and Rachel kicks herself for not realizing that he would do this. And knowing that Tobias is terrified of water, she feels awful for putting him in this position.

She and Cassie head down to the beach to help with the relief effort and Rachel manages to acquire the whale. Tobias swoops down to acquire it, but gets his talon stuck in its skin (a theme for him with aquatic animals, after the whole dolphin incident!). The other Animorphs have to dive bomb him in gull morph to knock him loose. Then they all morph dolphin and head out to sea.

Once they get a ways out, Tobias and Rachel morph the whale and get to work. As awesome as the morph is, they both struggle with the mental aspect of it, being so deep in the water. Just as they’re about to give up, Tobias spots the ship and Rachel spots a giant squid. She almost gets wrestled to her death fighting it, but Tobias shows up in the nick of time and finishes the job, hauling it up to the surface for everyone to acquire.

They all morph giant squid and go a-searching. Even knowing that Tobias found it once, they take a long time finding the ship again, almost running up against the two hour limit. Finally, they locate it, but they see what must be Yeerk submarines moving in quickly too.

The Pemalite ship is very accommodating, granting them entrance in their current forms and creating essentially large bubbles for their squid forms which they can move around the space in. The inside looks similar to the Andalites’ dome ship, with a large meadow full of trees, water, and what must be toys. The bridge is located in a tree, and the Animorphs are able to restore the Chee by typing in the super secret code of “6.” But suddenly the auto destruct is also turned on.

A creature calling itself the Drode steps out and explains all. He works for Crayak, and he has been the one behind all of the happenstances on this adventure. Crayak was displeased by the loss of his Howlers, so he had the Drode set up this confrontation between the Animorphs and the now arriving Yeerk forces, including Visser Three. However, per the rules, there is a way out.

Cassie quickly realizes that they need to shoot their ink and use its cover to demorph and remorph into battle morphs to better be able to fight back against the Yeerks. They do so, and the battle begins. The Animorphs, however, are losing, badly outnumbered by the Yeerks. They are only saved by the arrival of Erek who quickly reprograms the ship. It very politely informs them that it disapproves of violence, and forcibly ejects everyone while preventing them from re-engaging outside. The Animorphs make it back to shore, counting themselves lucky that Erek was able to reach them in the bare few minutes between them restoring the Chee’s functionality and the battle going poorly.

Xena, Warrior Princess: Rachel is gaining quite a bit of self-awareness, and with this self-awareness comes concern. In the very beginning of the book, she spends quite a bit of time reflecting and worrying about the fact that she is beginning to lose her interest and joy in things that held her attention before the war with the Yeerks. Like gymnastics. To a certain extent I imagine they all have to deal with this. I mean, yes, after flying, it’s hard to see vaulting in quite the same light. But Rachel knows that it’s not just that, and that she’s beginning to fall into a category that is scarily similar to addiction with regards to her anticipation and joy for battle.

Throughout this story, we see her battle with this aspect of herself, both in her own ability or inability to hold it in, and her continuing dismay at how she is viewed by the others, particularly Jake. Her moment pressuring Tobias into helping her cheat on drawing straws was a big example of this. Even she is scared of this mission and the deep depths of the ocean. But she can’t stop herself from putting herself forward and not allowing it to be left up to fate. She HAS to be the one, and she’s so single-mindedly focused on this part of it that she fails to anticipate the super obvious repercussions, that Tobias would naturally join up next. She kicks herself for it after, but it’s hard to know whether she’d have been able to hold back even if she HAD thought of it ahead of time.

The second ongoing internal struggle for her has to do with T.T. It’s not even the fact that he approaches her, it’s the fact that she hesitates. And for Rachel, who along with Marco probably, values loyalty the most of anyone in the group, this moment of hesitation is damning. This will be an ongoing struggle for them both, but here we see the particular challenges that Rachel faces. She’s still living a human life, surrounded by other humans. The challenges of balancing that with her very real feelings for a boy who is a bird the majority of the time are high. And Rachel already has a lot on her plate.

She’s also particularly disturbed by the Drode’s accusations that she is the only one of the group who might be worth sparing. He says that she’s already close to being one of them as it is, so if she ever wants to join up…I think this is taking it a bit far, but if the Drode’s goal was to take advantage of one of her major insecurities and worries about herself, he hit the bulls eye.

Our Fearless Leader: I’ve found that I have the hardest time with Jake in Rachel POV books. I really like him in all the others, but for some reason the dynamic between him and Rachel, as interesting as it is, can also lead to what I see as some of Jake’s worse moments. Here he has one good moment and one that I think is fairly bad.

He immediately catches on to Rachel using Tobias to cheat at drawing straws and pulls her aside to lecture her. This is a good moment for him, as clearly Rachel needs reminders that her actions have unintended consequences, like pulling water-fearing-Tobias into a underwater mission because he feels the need to look after Rachel. She doesn’t stop to think this through herself or realize that, alongside the bravery of volunteering, there’s also selfishness that hurts others, this time Tobias.

The other less good moment comes early when they are first discussing the ins and outs of this mission and realizing how impossible it will be (before said convenient whale beaching). Rachel says something about it being a suicide mission, since none of their morphs can dive that deep. Jake cuts her off and tells her she’s overreacting. This hurts Rachel, and, I think rightly, she suspects that had Cassie pointed the same thing out, Jake would have seen her as being sensibly cautious. Rachel takes this to mean that because she’s the “brave one,” she’s not allowed to react to terrible odds like the others. As we’ve already seen, and as will become even more apparent, Rachel is already suffering from the feeling that she can’t be vulnerable and look for support like the others. She has to be brave. ALWAYS. So Jake shutting her down here is pretty much just reinforcing an already problematic and unhealthy issue she’s got going on. Not well done, Jake.

A Hawk’s Life: Outside of his own books, it seems like Rachel books are the only ones where he gets significant action, so that’s always fun. His is a particular type of bravery here. He lets Rachel pressure him into telling her which are the short straws, but even as he makes this decision, we know that he is also deciding to go himself, an even more heroic choice given his own particular fear of water. And while they’re on the mission as whales, Tobias is the one to spot the Pemalite ship, save Rachel from the giant squid, and wrangle it to the surface. He makes a passing comment about being a master predator, and I think there might be more to it than is given in this throwaway comment. He IS a master predator. Of them all, this is unique strength from his time living day in and day out as one. Perhaps it’s not surprising that he would do the best in a hunting confrontation like this, regardless of the forms of the combatants involved.

Peace, Love, and Animals: Cassie and Rachel have some nice friendship moments in this book. They first meet up at the mall, and it’s always fun reading about the two of them in this environment: Cassie’s cluelessness and Rachel’s loving exasperation at her. They are the ones to first manage the whole Erek situation, calling in reinforcements with Jake and Marco. Later, in the fight in the warehouse, wolf!Cassie gets shot in the back and paralyzed, and this serves as a huge motivation for elephant!Rachel who becomes particularly enraged by this. Cassie also goes down to the beach with Rachel to help the whale and serve as an excuse for Rachel’s presence when she acquires it. Upon seeing it, Rachel swears that she will kill whomever did this (at this point, it’s pretty clear that someone is setting up the pieces for this entire thing), and Cassie vows to help. No one hurts animals and uses their lives as pawns on Cassie’s watch!

The Comic Relief: Gorilla!Marco does a lot of heavy lifting (ha!) in this one, being the one tasked with hauling both Erek and the homeless Chee to safety. He also has some good lines about the ridiculousness of the Pemalite “safety protocols.”

E.T./Ax Phone Home: Ax doesn’t have a lot in this book. Early in the story, Rachel internally comments that she’s glad Ax isn’t around when they come up to the warehouse and see the stark poverty and awfulness of it all, saying she doesn’t want to explain it to him. But then he does show up and uses his skunk morph to devastating effect, essentially bailing them all out of the entire disastrous affair. There are also some comparisons to the Andalite Dome Ship with the Pemalites’ ship that is full of meadows, streams, and toys. Though Ax scoffs at the fact that they have their bridge in a tree.

Best (?) Body Horror Moment: When Rachel first morphs the whale, she does so in a very bizarre manner, getting huge but not really changing out of human form. This results in Jake getting stuck in her hair and Marco making some pretty disgusting comments about the size of her pores. Not a mental image I needed, thanks.

Couples Watch!: The T.T. things makes some waves for our favorite couple, outside of just messing with Rachel’s head. In a moment of thoughtlessness, while she and Tobias are searching around as whales, Rachel blurts out that she was asked out. Tobias, like a fool, tries to play it cool and asks when the date is. Rachel then gets all huffy about how she turned him down. And Tobias, like an even BIGGER fool, asks why. Really, Tobias. Get it together. You know why and fishing around like this is never a good idea, especially not with a girl like Rachel who is so frank and upfront about things. He kind of just makes the whole thing even harder on her. But! I will forgive him for his bit of silliness for the huge gesture of his accompanying her on the whale adventure. For the very last lines of the book, we get this:

He really was cute. And so normal. So not Tobias.
He had almost certainly never eaten a mouse. On the other hand, he’d never morphed a sperm whale and gone to the bottom of the ocean while his brain was reeling with barely suppressed terror, just so he could look out for me.
“I’m gonna go get some wings and come on up there. Keep an eye out for me.”
<I always will,> he said.

If Only Visser Three had  Mustache to Twirl:  Visser Three shows up at the underwater Pemalite ship and straight up makes a villain speech.  He literally opens with the lines “So. We meet again. For the last time!” You can’t get more classic villain than that! He then proceeds to morph a terrifying monster and do his usual.

The Drode is the interesting villain of this piece, calling himself a “wildcard.” The Animorphs quickly connect him to Crayak, and he doesn’t bother hiding it. He says that Crayak is pretty upset about his Howlers being ruined, so he sent the Drode. There are a lot of references to the last book, particularly Crayak’s particular hatred of Jake, and it seems like the Drode has similar almost all-powerful abilities, able to put all the piece in place for this showdown. The Drode also seriously messes with Rachel’s mind by saying that, unlike the others, she might be worth while as she’s closer to “their kind of people.” In the end, he leaves with this parting shot:

“If you ever find yourself desperate, Rachel. At an end. In need. Remember this: Your cousin’s life is your passport to salvation in the arms of Crayak.”

DUN DUN DUN.

Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: Two things, the scene when they first come upon the beached whale is super sad. Lots of depressing descriptions of it dying from its own weight, and the hopelessness of all the help that people are trying to do with buckets and such. This works out in the end, as the Drode has to save it since the whale is just over the boundary as a “sentient species” so it’s against Crayak/Ellimist rules to let it die. The other bit is just the general sadness that surrounds the remainders of the Pemalites and their fate. There are a lot of jokes about how simply the “defenses” of the ship are (their singled digit security code and such), but Cassie points out that they were a hopeful species. Rachel brings it down again by saying that’s why they no longer exist. Grim stuff.

What  a Terrible Plan, Guys!: It’s not so much a terrible plan, but the fact that the battle in the abandoned warehouse goes so poorly for them is a bit hard to believe. I mean, they regularly go up against massive aliens covered in blades, other aliens shooting laser guns, and a guy who can morph into all kinds of crazy killing machines. And yet somehow a bunch of regular cops pretty much cripple them? I  mean, I get that the book needed another big action scene, but I dunno, maybe have a bunch of Controllers show up wanting to get the Chee, too, or something. Erek says it best:

“No offense,” Erek said, “but how on Earth have you people managed to avoid getting caught for this long?”

Favorite Quote:

Another example of the great hamming it up that Visser Three had in this book:

The Pemalite ship carefully, politely, regretfully, packed the Yeerks, including a furiously enraged Visser Three, back into their modified Bug fighters.
<I’ll kill you all! I’ll take this ship apart, piece by piece! I’ll be back and nothing will stop me! You’ll die, all of you, Andalite and . . . and whoever runs this ship, I’ll kill you all!> Visser Three said. Repeatedly.
<We are so sorry you had a bad time,> the ship said. <Perhaps we can meet again someday and enjoy some pleasant activities together.>

And the always needed Rachel/Marco snark:

<0h, man, if we could take this technology, we could open a water park that would totally rule the world of water parks,> Marco said.
<Yeah, that was my first thought, too,> I said. <Water park dominance.>

Scorecard: Yeerks 6, Animorphs 12

No change to the scorecard! This whole ordeal was brought about in the bigger Crayak villain arc, so yeah, while they kept the Chee and the Pemalites out of the Yeerks’ hands, they didn’t really strike a blow to them either. The lines remain the same!

Rating: I actually really enjoyed this one. Rachel has a good internal arc with her fears of her growing addiction to violence and also her concerns about her relationship with Tobias. The adventure was fun and the stakes nice and high. The fact that they get stomped so thoroughly in the abandoned warehouse was a bit much, but the entire undersea adventure was great. The descriptions of being so deep and the fears this would inspire were particularly good. The Drode was also an interesting new player, and I enjoyed the fact that this story was so closely tied to the events of the last book. It’s always nice to feel like we’re reading a series in a necessary order, rather than just a bunch of standalone adventures.

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!

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