Review of The Proposal by K.A. Applegate
by K.A. Applegate
Somebody’s getting married!
It’s not Marco. That would be weird. Applegate has a lot of messed up stuff in Animorphs, including child soldiers, but not child brides (or grooms).
No, Marco’s dad has a new love interest, and it’s serious. Marco doesn’t know how he feels about this, what with his mother still being alive but playing host to an evil alien bent on killing or subjugating all humans. Unfortunately, the Animorphs have a new mission, so Marco doesn’t have time to sit in a dark room processing his emotions by listening to increasingly intense ’90s alt rock. He has to deal with it like a man, which is to say, bottling those emotions up until they explode in uncontrollable rage-morphing that compromises the mission and ruins everything. But in a manly way.
The Proposal has lots of interesting ideas but doesn’t really get off the ground. I’m coming to the conclusion that Marco is funnier when he isn’t the narrator. As the narrator he’s a bit of a downer. With that wall stripped away, we really get to see the hollow shell of the child Marco once was—and while this is illuminating, it is not as humorous as when Marco is cracking wise in other Animorphs’ stories.
Moreover, the pacing of this book is just bizarre. Dropping in a stepmom for Marco is something that could have been spread over multiple books. There’s the barest of nods to the Animorphs investigating Norah to see if she is a Controller, and that’s about it. Otherwise, we just learn that she has been dating Marco’s dad for a few months now. Was this happening during previous books, and Marco just never mentioned it? Or has it been months since the last book? There’s very little dramatic tension with this subplot, very little conflict: we know she is not a Controller; we know they are getting married, etc. By the end of the book, Marco admits that he is slightly overreacting and it’s not going to be a huge deal.
In other words, there is either not enough happening here or too much happening for it to be crammed into one book.
The other plot, the Animorphs’ latest mission, concerns a particular celebrity Controller whom they try to discredit. I really like the idea behind this one, because the Animorphs have to concoct a plan to make the Controller break his character so that he ruins his host’s reputation. It’s much more subtle than we usually see in this series—although the Animorphs often use smaller morphs for spying and infiltration, this is one of the few times we see them go on the offensive without literally tearing holes in walls (well, that happens too). However, it seems to be at odds with Marco’s intermittent inability to control his morphing. If the two plots worked better together, this might be a tenser, more interesting book. As it is, The Proposal is a hot mess.
Fortunately, I get to read the utterly amazing Visser special next before diving back into the regular series, and I am very much looking forward to that. One of the best things about Animorphs is its ability to promote empathy. While Visser Three is a nasty dude, the idea that we can get inside his head and understand why he became such a nasty dude is an important one. But more on that in the next review!