Animorphs #32: “The Separation”
Publishing Info: Scholastic Paperbacks, August 1999
Where Did I Get this Book: own it!
Book Description: Rachel is falling apart. Literally. Her newest morph the ability to regenerate its limbs, but when Rachel demorphs there’s a lot more Rachel than when she started out. One more Rachel, to be exact. Rachel is an okay person to have around. But two could be considered overkill. Especially two Rachels with completely opposite personalities: one is pathetically weak; one is super strong and super nasty.Now the Animorphs have to figure out a way to put Rachel back together again. Because if it’s up to the “twins, ” Rachel the weak will surrender to Visser Three. Rachel the super bold will try to single-handedly take him down. And twice the trouble may be twice as much as the other Animorphs and Ax can handle….
Can that be my plot description? Just not continue? No? Ugh.
Rachel is out on a field trip when she drops a piece of jewelry into the ocean. Of course, this means she must morph the starfish she spots. On her way back out, some rude little kid cuts her in half with a shovel (that kid needs to be hunted down, just like Mean!Rachel thought, but mostly it’s due to the fact that he’s the reason we had to be exposed to this book). From there the chapters alternate between Mean!Rachel and Nice!Rachel. Mean!Rachel meets up with Tobias to go flying, as she had planned. Tobias immediately thinks something is up when she hunts and eats some prey on their trip. Cassie, too, notices that something is up with Nice!Rachel on their trip to the mall. For one, she admits to having skipped out on Tobias, and for two, after getting into a bit of a spat with another customer, she flees the mall crying.
Back in the barn, Cassie lets the group know that something is up and Rachel isn’t acting normal. This is confirmed when Mean!Rachel strides in the door wanting to kick Yeerk butt. Both Rachels are horrified by the other, but through their pieced together story, the group realizes that happens. The starfish DNA somehow allowed Rachel to demorph into two separate people, splitting her personality between them. Before they can figure out what to do next, Erek shows up and announces that the Yeerks are testing a new Anti-Morphing Ray gun. Jake tells the two Rachels to go home and sit this one out.
At home, Mean!Rachel is having none of this and immediately sets off after the Animorphs. Once she finds them, she barrels into the situation with a truck, ramming through walls and getting in fights with Hork Bajir. In the madness, the group manages to escape, but the plan to get destroy the gun is ruined. Back home, Wimpy!Rachel doesn’t know what to do with herself, so she decides to call her dad for comfort. After a very confusing conversation, she arranges to meet with him at the airport the next day and confess everything to him. Mean!Rachel shows back up rather put-out by how “unappreciative” the team had been to her escapades and promptly kicks Wimpy!Rachel onto the floor to sleep.
The next day, Wimpy!Rachel goes to school where both Marco and Cassie test her to see if they can figure out more about what aspects of the original Rachel is in each half of her. Mean!Rachel, of course, doesn’t go to school, but does decide to morph fly and spy on the group when they meet up in the barn at the end of the day. Ax says that he may have a plan to put her together again, but that it could also kill her. Cassie is vehemently against this. But Marco points out that the current situation won’t work either, that Mean!Rachel is too psychotic to left running around. Mean!Rachel flies into a rage, demorphs, grabs Tobias and threatens to strangle him if the team doesn’t agree that she should now be the leader. Jake sidles up and punches her in the face followed by a quick smack from Ax’s tail blade that knocks her out. Wimpy!Rachel shows up in the midst of this and flies into crying hysterics.
After Mean!Rachel wakes up, she heads home. But she’s begun to realize strangeness in her own ability to think, that she can’t figure out what to do next or plan. In her room, she sees the note that Wimpy!Rachel left to remind herself to meet her dad at the airport. With a new mission, Mean!Rachel takes off after her. At the airport restaurant, Wimpy!Rachel tries to suss out whether her father is a Controller, but before she can tell him the whole truth, Mean!Rachel shows up and forces her to leave. Mean!Rachel takes her place and is quite rude the her dad and the staff. She starts a food fight to prevent Wimpy!Rachel from showing up to ruin things and her dad finally has to leave for his next flight.
Back in the barn, the team meets up once again. They still need to deal with the Anti-Morphing Ray. The Yeerks are now up on the game that the Animorphs know of their plans (what with Mean!Rachel’s display the other day), so they have arranged for three trucks to transport the ray which means the team needs to split up. Cassie tells Wimpy!Rachel that they need her to come. Mean!Rachel demorphs and insists on coming along. During these exchanges, it’s made clear that the team doesn’t trust either of them and had been following them when they went to the airport. Ax once again knocks out Mean!Rachel to stop her from coming. And Jake invokes Wimpy!Rachel’s sense of duty to get her to come along, pairing her with himself so he can keep an eye on her.
During the mission, Jake has to continuously threaten and bride Wimpy!Rachel through every morph she has to make since she’s too scared to do most anything. After an “exciting” car chase, Jake and Rachel morph roaches as the truck they’re riding enters a building. They are quickly gassed, however, and knocked out. It turns out that Mean!Rachel woke quite quickly and morphed owl. She then followed the group, specifically her twin and Jake, and ends up in the same building.
Wimpy!Rachel and Jake end up captured. While Jake tries valiantly to keep Wimpy!Rachel calm, she ends up breaking and calling out to the Yeerks that she’ll do anything to be let go. In the mean time, Mean!Rachel had morphed Hork Bajir and casually marched into the room where Jake and her twin were being held. She attacks the Hork Bajir around her, but as she takes them down, the wall slides open and she sees even more Hork Bajir outside the room and Visser Three among them. After the remaining Controllers retreat, Visser Three orders the door to slam and turns on a machine that begins moving the walls and ceiling slowly down, taunting them that they must give themselves up or be crushed.
The boxes that Wimpy!Rachel and Jake had been in were crushed during the madness, so once free, she quickly demorphs. She doesn’t see Jake and Mean!Rachel casually comments that she may have stepped on him during the fight. Wimpy!Rachel can see a plan for escape, but she needs Mean!Rachel to carry it out with her bravery.
Wimpy!Rachel morphs Hork Bajir and calls out to Visser Three, threatening to cut her own throat rather than be infested. The door quickly opens and fly!Mean!Rachel swoops towards Visser Three. From within his ear, fly!Mean!Rachel calls out to Visser Three saying that he must give them their freedom or she will begin to demorph in his head, killing them both. Visser Three flies into a rage but quickly agrees and walks them both out. He leaves in a huff, saying that next time he’ll just kill them.
Jake demorphs next to them. It turns out he had been stepped on, but had been able to crawl his way to Wimpy!Rachel and hide out on her for the journey out. He says that this experience was necessary for both Rachels to realize that they need each other. That Wimpy!Rachel has the ability to think ahead and plan, but Mean!Rachel has the bravery to act. Back in the barn they go forward with the process to merge the two back together. Standing with the hands on each others shoulders, they begin acquiring each other and then morphing one another while Erek jolts them with electricity. It works and the newly reformed but shaken Rachel looks to Tobias to move forward with the knowledge that she is made up of two extremes.
Xena, Warrior Princess: I hate almost everything about this book. The entire plot is ridiculous, but my main frustration comes down to the way that this book mangles Rachel’s character. What always made her one of my favorites was the complexity of her character. In her we have a beautiful blonde who both loves gymnastics and shopping but is also the strongest and most fierce of this entire team. And she is never shamed for her “girly” pursuits. Those aspects of herself are never portrayed as silly or worth nothing when held up against her more heroic aspects. She’s an excellent example of how to write a strong, female character without feeling the need to throw traditionally female aspects out the window.
But here, both parts of Rachel are portrayed in truly despicable ways. For Mean!Rachel, this side should have had her bravery, her recklessness, and yes, her ruthlessness, all tempered with a high sense of practicality. She is willing to make the tough calls when the tough calls are also the most practical call. She’ll set aside emotional moralizing for this, yes. But here, she’s simply violent and there is no direction to her violence. She is just as likely to want to kill her friends as the Yeerks. As we’ve seen in book after book, Rachel is the character who is the first one to jump to the aid of her friends at risk to herself. She would never, NEVER want to kill her friends, not matter how ruthless she becomes. And for all of this, the reasons she wants to kill her friends are for stupid, petty reasons. Again, two more traits that we never see driving the real Rachel.
And then Wimpy!Rachel. For some reason, throughout this entire cluster of a book, we have to listen to Wimpy!Rachel insert the word “like” into every sentence. Real Rachel never spoke like this, so what aspect of herself is this, other than just a poor attempt to make this version of Rachel sound stupid? Her love of shopping and the mall are also reduced to the most basic stereotypes. In past books, we’ve seen Rachel approach shopping as a challenge to be accepted and conquered. Here, there’s none of that, just silliness. Further, her boy-craziness is based in nothing more than even more horrible stereotypes about “girly girls.” Real Rachel never gave even the slightest hint at having boy craziness in any part of her.
Both versions of Rachel are terrible and neither reflects most of the parts of the real Rachel that makes her such an excellent, complicated character. This book does a terrible disservice to all of the character building that has gone into Rachel for the last 30 books and basically it can die in fire for that.
Our Fearless Leader: Jake is clearly at his wits end with both Rachels by the end of the book. He pretty much says they have to agree to try to join back together or he’ll turn them over to Visser Three (a pretty empty threat, however, given their knowledge of the group). He also implies that part of the final mission was to convince both Rachels that they needed the other to help them to agree to the process. I’m not so sure about this, as it seemed pretty hap-hazard that they ended up in a situation that conveniently forced them to rely on each others’ skill sets. It’s not like Jake really engineered that situation. Sure, it worked out well, but I’m sure it wasn’t part of the plan since, in the end, dealing with the Anti-Morphing Ray was a bigger priority, and they failed at that.
A Hawk’s Life: Poor Tobias. In the very beginning, Wimpy!Rachel just ditches him for shopping and then Mean!Rachel hunts and kill some animal in front of him. And then tries to strangle him later in the book! But it was interesting to see that Mean!Rachel continually referenced having respect for Tobias because he was also a predator. To analyze that more than it probably deserves, it’s an interesting clue into part of the reason these two are drawn to each other. They each recognize the need for violence and have to reconcile it with their more peaceful other halves. And, unlike Cassie or even Jake sometimes, both are a bit more at peace with this balance overall. It’s also nice that in the end, once Rachel is back to being herself, she immediately looks to Tobias for support and he immediately picks up on the reason: that he too is made up of two very distinct selves.
Peace, Love, and Animals: Cassie has some good stuff in this book. She’s one of the first ones to notice that something is up with the version of Rachel she’s hanging out with. And then she’s the one to correctly analyze what portions of original!Rachel is in each version, giving Jake the hint that Wimpy!Rachel could be manipulated using her sense of duty. In the end of the book, she immediately asks Rachel is she’s ok and whether she wants to talk about her experience, another example of the solid friendship that these two have.
The Comic Relief: Marco is the other one who is sent to test Wimpy!Rachel to see what’s what. I think he was a bit more subtle about it than Cassie and was able to get some useful information out of Wimpy!Rachel regarding her inability to think quickly in the moment or have much short term memory. He also has quite a few good lines in this book.
E.T./Ax Phone Home: Poor Ax has very, very little in this. I hardly remember if he even spoke. He was the one to come up with the plan for getting the two Rachels back into one, but, again, Erek was the one who really pulled it off, leaving not much for Ax to do. Was he even in this book??
Best (?) Body Horror Moment: I mean, the whole concept of the book really? Being split in half and morphing two of herself? It does bring up some interesting ideas about just how much of one’s body can be lobbed off before demoprhing is a problem. So far, it seems that as long as you’re living, the demorphing process naturally regenerates any lost limbs/body parts. So I’m not sure how the starfish part lines up with this. Best not to think about it too much.
Couples Watch!: This is like adding insult to injury. I always love the Rachel or Tobias books because of the two couples, they often have the most in their books and I prefer their romance to the wishy-washy version that Jake and Cassie have. But what do I get here?!?! Mean!Rachel literally trying to strangle Tobias to death! Great. Just what I want to see. It was interesting to see that Mean!Rachel was much more into Tobias than Wimpy!Rachel.
Adding fuel to my secondary ship, Wimpy!Rachel admitted to Cassie that she could be into Marco. Marco, of course, took full advantage of this, saying at one point that Mean!Rachel could go with Tobias, leaving Wimpy!Rachel to give it a go with him.
But then she has to go too far…
Jake was there. He’s my cousin. He’s cute. Kind of big. I mean, if we weren’t cousins. . ..
If Only Visser Three had Mustache to Twirl: You’d think by now Visser Three would have finally, FINALLY, learned his lesson about trying to trap the Animorphs rather than just killing them when he gets a chance. But no, still too egotistical for all that, wanting to bring in more valuable hosts. I’ve said it before though, this plan also makes no sense for a Yeerk who revels in being the only one with a morph-capable body. He is selfish and self-centered enough to want to keep a distinction like that for himself. So why he’s still hesitating to take them out when he has the chance is beyond me. He makes a comment towards the end about next time just killing them. But sure, Visser Three, whatever you say. Empty words and all of that.
Adult Ugly Crying at a Middle Grade Book: Again, another book during which I wept to remember the good books that came before and how far we have fallen to reach this point. There might have been some good stuff in there about Rachel’s seeming estrangement from her mother and need for her father, but there was too much other stupidness going on to even focus on that.
What a Terrible Plan, Guys!: Their last plan to go forward with tracking down the Anti-Morphing Machine in the midst of the Rachel crisis was just a bad idea. Not only did they leave Mean!Rachel behind, knowing full well that she’d simply follow them and they’d have no idea what type of damage she could do (I mean, at this point she was out-right threatening the lives of several of the group, so it’s not out of the realms of imagination to think she could have taken a few of them out, especially when they were all split up covering different trucks). But beyond this, manipulating Wimpy!Rachel to do what was necessary was also a risky choice. We saw several times that Jake barely managed to get her to do what was needed as they went along and he was spending by far more time watching out for her than on the mission itself. All told, they were way too vulnerable and weakened to be attempting a mission like this, and in the end, they failed anyways. And it was STILL probably the most lucky outcome they could have hoped for.
Rachel loses yet another arm in her grizzly morph:
“So you know what I do? I reach down, pick it up, and use it like a club to beat him over the head.” [Mean!Rachel said]
As they’re holding shoulders to start the merge process, finally a moment that sounds like the real Rachel either way:
“Do you, Dr. Jekyll, take Ms. Hyde, to have and to hold -”
“Shut up, Marco, you’re already on my list!” Mean Rachel snapped.
Scorecard: Yeerks 8, Animorphs 12
I’m going to give this one to the Yeerks. In all the Rachel craziness, the Animorphs failed to destroy the Anti-Morphing Machine, so that’s a pretty big hit. Plus, I feel bitter about this book and will unfairly take it out on my scoring.
Rating: The lowest of all ratings. Not only does nothing in this plot make sense with regards to how the starfish thing worked, or, worse, how getting put back together worked, but the character assassination that is done to Rachel is unforgivable. I always look forward to Rachel’s books, and in my mind, this doesn’t even count as a one since neither version of her that we’re given is even remotely familiar to the character we’ve spent 30+ books getting to know. I really have nothing good to say about this book. I had a very clear memory of hating it the first go around and reading it a second time has not changed things.
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!