I’m trying to be sparing with my five stars in this series, but oh man … Rachel. Applegate just always breaks my heart with her, and The Solution is yet another perfect example. In the conclusion to the David trilogy, Rachel is instrumental in implementing the titular “solution” to the Animorphs’ problem. It is ironic that a human enemy, rather than a Yeerk one, forces the Animorphs to be at their coldest yet.
Let’s just catalogue what Rachel has to endure in this book.
Jake tells Ax to “get Rachel” instead of anyone else. This haunts Rachel for the length of the story: why did Jake send Ax for her, specifically, rather than Cassie or Marco? When she confronts him, he claims he needed the firepower of her morphs—but they both recognize this is a thin excuse. In actuality, Rachel has a ruthlessness that the other Animorphs lack. This is not the first time Applegate has drawn our attention to it, but it is the first time Jake, as leader, has taken tactical advantage of it.
Rachel crosses a line. Until now, the most morally dubious action in this series, in my opinion, is what Tobias and Ax conspire to do in In the Time of the Dinosaurs. And that was a much more utilitarian decision than Rachel’s actions here. Having seen the lengths to which David is willing to go, Rachel snaps. She threatens to kill him. She threatens to take down his family. Rachel shows that she is prepared to cross any line to deal with David. It’s scary. And it scares her.
When storming the resort to prevent the Yeerks from making world leaders into Controllers, Rachel encounters the President of the United States. She’s in elephant morph, and she’s not doing too well:
I swear I had to fight down the urge to say, “It's an honor to meet you, sir.” But blood was flowing down my face and I was feeling dizzy. The bullets had done some damage.
I keep saying this, but I’ll just reiterate: these aren’t kids’ novels any more, if ever they were. Applegate doesn’t pull punches. These fights are visceral—earlier, she talks about Jake in tiger morph lying in a pool of his own blood. Let’s not even mention all the times she has to morph quickly in hostile environments—she nearly drowns here when she’s trying to get into dolphin morph. Rachel is going through experiences that I, as an adult, probably wouldn’t be able to get through.
Finally, Applegate reminds us that Rachel’s relationship with this war is only going to get more troubling. Jake likens it to an alcoholic with booze and expresses regret for his role in enabling Rachel’s warrior passion. Jokes about Xena aside, there’s definitely something to be said for Applegate making the stereotypically blonde-haired, blue-eyed “pretty” and fashion-obsessed Rachel the warlike one.
But what breaks my heart is just the knowledge that this is the beginning of Rachel’s descent into darkness, not the nadir. It gets worse! And I say this not just with the foreknowledge from having read this series long ago but thanks to Applegate’s foreshadowing in this book. Rachel will always have to live with her role in eliminating the threat of David, in condemning him to a face that, in some respects, in much worse than simply killing him. I feel so sorry for the Animorphs that they have to make these decisions, and for Rachel in particular. While her guilt shows that, unlike David, she is not too far-gone, that guilt itself is a burden she should not have to bear.