My friend Julie’s review pretty much nails why #37: The Weakness is, coincidentally, so weak. I’m just going to pile on with a few more observations.
This is Rachel’s chance to lead while Jake is away. She bungles it, but not as badly as the ghostwriter of this book (Elise Smith) bungles Rachel’s characterization. Her portrayal as an insecure megalomaniac gives me flashbacks, as it did Julie, to aggressive Rachel from #32: The Separation; Rachel’s whole narration just feels so off, such a caricature, that, plot holes aside, the entire book is just an uncomfortable reading experience. If this were a TV show, it would be as if Rachel’s normal actor were replaced by someone else, kind of how Dick York gets replaced by Dick Sargent in Bewitched and no one in the show acknowledges that Darrin is a completely different person (magic!).
Julie’s review goes on to critique the plot holes of this book with an unabashed and entirely justified rant. Reading this story is like reading someone’s really bad Animorph fanfic: all the characters are here; the essential story elements are here; but there are dumb contrivances and terrible story decisions. Why do the Garatrons need to physically resemble the Andalites if that is never relevant to the story (or subsequent stories) in any way? Is it just to drop in a mention of convergent evolution? And I agree that there is so much craziness happening in this book without any of it ever becoming an issue for the Animorphs. They trash a TV station, literally steal an airplane from a military base, and nothing bad comes of it. The level of action in this book is close to Megamorphs, Michael-Bay-style effects level—and it makes just as much sense as a Michael Bay film, i.e., zero.
It’s a shame, because The Weakness does have a few elements with potential. The whole “who would make a better leader” subplot does not interest me, mostly because it is something that this series has spent time on already. But this feels like a wasted opportunity to talk about strategy. Until now, the Animorphs have been very heavy on tactics: how they attack, when they attack, etc. Recent books have shifted this focus from tactics to strategy, with the Animorphs forced to temporarily work with Yeerks like Visser One in order to prevent a “worse” invasion of Earth. The question of whether or not the Animorphs are better off waging war against the Yeerks in secret or exposing them to prompt global resistance is a thorny one, and something that will come to the fore by the end of the series. The fraught, dangerous mission that the Animorphs undertake in this story, and the way they come up against the spectre of exposure, could have led to some interesting discussions among the team. Instead, we just get infighting. Because … conflict?
Every time I encounter a book like this, I have to remind myself that in 54 issues, they can’t all be winners. And young me probably didn’t mind as much. Nevertheless, I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out The Weakness as anything other than what it is: not just a hot mess, but a hot mess left behind by the guy who made you pay for the meal because he “forgot his wallet”.