A sequel to #19: The Departure, The Sickness moves forward the Yeerk peace movement subplot. And I don’t know how you can possibly hate on Cassie after reading this book, because she literally saves the day single-handedly. She is boss mode.
I mean, if Cassie had been any more successful, she would be a Mary Sue. Not only does she infiltrate the Yeerk Pool, without any backup, by hosting a sympathetic Yeerk, rescue Aftran, evade capture, and make it out alive … then she proceeds to perform brain surgery on an Andalite without killing him.
So … yeah. That might be the best plot summary of an Animorphs book in a long time.
Not to mention, Cassie has the most adorable attitude while doing it: that kind of, “Ugh, I guess I’ll have to take care of this by myself—again” attitude super-capable people occasionally get when their friend reneges on a plan for the nth time because they are “sick” or something. With the other Animorphs out of commission thanks to a less serious form of the sickness gripping Ax, Cassie (it’s never explained why she is unaffected) is the only one able to do anything. The stakes are incredibly high: if Visser Three successfully interrogates Aftran, they will reveal the true identities of the Animorphs, and it is game over.
It’s no wonder Cassie wanted to quit the Animorphs ten books ago, and look at what she has had to go through since then. The Howler thing practically tore her up inside. And Marco is getting really insensitive with his jibes. So when Cassie has to step up, she does so in a big way, because she is ever the reluctant Animorph these days. And there are no thanks for her, no awards, of course, because this is a secret war. This book does a great job of describing the pressure a lone soldier can feel when an important mission hinges on their success.
I also love the ending. I think the way they manage to save Aftran without compromising another human being is excellent. Not only do they foreshadow it during the usual start-of-book exposition, but it has a kind of romantic righteousness to it. Of course this is how morphing technology could be used to end things.
But … but … the best thing about this book is, bar none, the ongoing developments in the Cake relationship. Jake “asks” Cassie to prom … well, OK, Rachel voluntells Jake to take Cassie to the prom. It’s pretty much the same thing. But the way that they are so sweet on each other is lovely here … and it is heartbreaking at the same time, this being my second read-through of the series, because we know what is coming. While I have no clear memories of any specifics from the finale, I know that it does not end well for Cake—and in retrospect, that makes sense. But in the here and now, things seem to be going so well. Oh, young, starcrossed lovers….
Next time, it’s another Megamorphs, which means … you guessed it … more time travel!