K.A. Applegate's Animorphs series. Jake and his friends Cassie, Marco, Rachel, and Tobias are cutting through an abandoned construction site on their way home from the mall one evening when they see a bright light in the sky that appears to be getting closer...it doesn't take long for them to realize that the light is actually a spaceship. The ship lands and the kids get a message of warning from the dying alien who was piloting it; the people of Earth are in danger. Another alien race is working on enslaving people by controlling their minds and bodies. Until help comes, Jake and his friends may have to try and fight the invasion. To help them, the alien gives them all a gift: the ability to morph into any animal after acquiring its DNA sequence by touching it. When the kids start realizing just how many people are already under the alien control, it hits them just how in over their heads they might be.
These books were right up there with Baby-Sitters Club and Goosebumps when I was a kid; come Book Fair time, Animorphs were certainly at the top of the Want List. There is something very appealing about having the power to change into any animal at will, and to do so in order to fight for the human race would be pretty awesome. Reading it again as an adult, I realize how cheesy the writing is, but I imagine it isn't so easy to write in the voice of a pre-teen or teenager in a way that might be believable enough to keep the target audience invested in the characters - especially when the way kids talk changes so much over the years.
The characters so far are pretty one-dimensional, but there are a lot of books in the series, so there is plenty of room for development where that is concerned. There are things these kids deal with, though, that are definitely not fluffy and childish. Marco and Tobias don't have the easiest home lives, and the rest of them are about to have to grow up a lot more pretty soon here if they plan to survive the coming war until the Andalites arrive to fight the Controllers.
Apparently there was a television series adapted from these books, but I don't remember ever having seen it, so I hope it shows up on Netflix Instant at some point, because I'm extremely curious, especially since according to IMDb, the guy who played Brad in Cadet Kelly played Jake.
Overall, I'd say I was not disillusioned after rereading this book; I'll be on the lookout for the second in the series so I can continue, since I really do not remember much of anything about what happens. I've heard that the books have started to be re-released, but I hope they at least keep two of the things I always loved (and still love) about them: the morphing on the covers and the little flipbook-style morphing image at the bottom corner of the pages.
And now, if you don't mind, there is something about reading a book about kids in the '90s that makes me feel like throwing on a plaid flannel shirt, putting my hair up with a scrunchie, and sitting down with some Warheads and a Fruitopia or Clearly Canadian to watch some Nickelodeon.
Series Info: What came before this book? What's next?
* The Invasion (Book 1)
- The Visitor (Book 2)
- The Encounter (Book 3)
Check out my progress on the challenges this book applies to!