The Chee are back, sort of, but they’ve got problems on the Animorphs can fix. It involves a deep dive, acquiring two new morphs, and weighing the consequences of the sides you pick. The Exposed has its moments, but after the explosiveness of The Attack, its more goofy drama feels incongruous.
Rachel is an excellent narrator for this story. She is good at taking weird in stride: when Erek shows up at the mall with a malfunctioning hologram, she takes charge. I loved her self-satisfied proclamation “I am the goddess of shopping.” The contrast between teenage-girl Rachel, who is obsessed with fashion and gymnastics and being good at as much as possible, and Animorph Rachel, the fierce warrior who doesn’t back down, is fascinating and complex. Just think about how Rachel acts when she is in one of her power morphs: she is more bloodthirsty than some hardened killers. Well, in some ways she is a killer.
As much as I don’t like the Drode’s introduction (he just seems to complicate things), I did love the way it insinuates itself into the worst facets of the Animorphs’ personalities. He appeals directly to that darker side of Rachel, and it sends shivers down the spine because it’s not a side that Rachel allows herself to acknowledge—so having someone else point it out is troubling.
Applegate also does something interesting here with the relationship (or lack thereof) between Rachel and Tobias. She dangles the prospect of an “ordinary” boyfriend for Rachel in the form of T. And therein we have that contrast again: T is everything that teenage-girl Rachel wants; Tobias, on the other hand, is a better fit for the more primal urges of Animorph Rachel. It’s telling that when Rachel is stressed at the end she chooses to morph into a bird and go for a flight with Tobias. Even so, there is a marked difference between Rachel’s killing instinct and Tobias’, because he has to kill for food. It’s a way of life for him, and he is good at it and even “enjoys” it, to some extent, thanks to the hawk morph—but it’s all about survival. For Rachel, however, it’s the fight that is the reward.
So I enjoyed diving deeper into Rachel’s psyche. The actual plot to this book, unfortunately, is more disappointing. It’s a fine premise, but this is one of those cases where the writers have relied on lazy storytelling and Idiot Ball plot devices instead of coming up with more realistic threats. The Drode, a kind of anti–deus ex machina, is a prime example, as is the actual deus ex machina at the end. I admit that I giggled a little—the Pemalite ship’s politeness and cheerfulness reminds me of Eddie, the computer on board the Heart of Gold in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
A few other good highlights: “Then we had bailed at top speed, pausing only long enough to change the channel on Erek’s TV. The two Chee would be stuck there for a while” and “<Mr. King gave us an access code that’ll get us into the main computer,> Jake said, his tone sardonic. <Everybody memorize it: Six.>”
As these quotes imply, though, this is a very silly book. Sometimes the silly books work for me, but sometimes they feel like a bit of a drag, especially on the heels of something like The Attack.
Next time, the Animorphs take on a Yeerk science experiment, and Ax gets TV (it was the nineties!).