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It’s 2023 and we’re all rereading Animorphs

Why now? Well, why not now?

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A photograph of the first six Animorphs books with their original covers, re-released by Scholastic in 2020 Image: Scholastic/Amazon
Maddy Myers has run Polygon’s games section since 2020 as deputy editor. She has worked in games journalism since 2007, at Kotaku, The Mary Sue, and the Boston Phoenix.

Has anybody else noticed that Animorphs is everywhere these days? The ’90s sci-fi young adult books by K.A. Applegate about a group of teenagers who fight an alien invasion by transforming into various animals (a superpower given to them by a friendly, non-invading alien) has been popping up all over social media lately, most notably in a viral Twitter thread last week detailing “the wildest thing that happens in every Animorphs book.” Maybe there’s something in the air — but whatever it is, I’m on board, because I just started rereading the series, and I’ve found that it’s easier than ever to do just that.

The original Animorphs novels, published from 1996 to 2001, also had a contemporary television adaptation on Nickelodeon that aired from 1998 to 2000. I’m not sure what the Animorphs fandom did for two decades after that (other than get shoutouts on nostalgic roundup lists written by and for millennials), but I do know that in 2020, Scholastic announced that an Animorphs movie was in the works. That movie has had a somewhat tortured journey since that announcement; originally, K.A. Applegate was involved, along with her husband and frequent co-author Michael Grant, but soon after the announcement, Applegate and Grant announced their departure from the project. News about the movie has been scant since then — but the original Animorphs books have become more accessible than ever before.

For its part, Scholastic has rereleased the series in various forms over the years, including digital versions. I think you should purchase every single one of these masterworks, but if you want to try before you buy, you have a good option. Members of the Animorphs subreddit have put up copies of all of the books in various digital formats (PDF, epub, and so on). According to that subreddit, Applegate and Grant have OKed the distribution of these digital files, and Scholastic has not weighed in (and hopefully won’t intervene any time soon).

A photograph of the first six Animorphs books with their original covers, re-released by Scholastic in 2020, along with a retro tin to store the books Image: Scholastic/Amazon

I’ve chosen to purchase the audiobook version for my reread, after having devoured the original paperbacks as a child. Award-winning audiobook narrator MacLeod Andrews reads the first entry, The Invasion, which was released in 2020. The next book in the Animorphs series to get an audiobook version — Animorphs #52, The Sacrifice — will be released on April 4, 2023, which means it’s been three glorious years of recording Animorphs. The last two books in the series have yet to be released, but hopefully, Scholastic Audio will have completed the collection by the time I get there.

Last but not least, Scholastic has debuted a graphic novel adaptation of Animorphs, illustrated by Chris Grine. The art has been divisive for some fans, especially those who prefer the old ’90s-era photorealistic CGI book covers, but personally, I was impressed by Grine’s ability to illustrate scary situations and body horror transformations in a more broad, cartoony style. Some of the images would have still seriously creeped me out as a kid — but I think that might be the point, because Animorphs is for older kids, and it’s also not for the faint of heart. Anyway, much like the audiobooks, the graphic novels are still a work in progress; on Monday, Grine tweeted an in-progress drawing of Marco for the graphic novel adaptation of Animorphs #5.

Nostalgia for pop culture tends to operate in 20-year cycles, and Animorphs is far from the first piece of late-’90s or early-2000s ephemera that has suddenly captured the hearts and imaginations of people who didn’t grow up during that time period (as well as old heads like me). The Y2K revival has already been happening in the fashion world, but with Hi-Fi Rush evoking Jet Set Radio (2000), and even Hogwarts Legacy forcing us all to remember the first time we read the 1997 novel Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (a bittersweet memory these days), it does seem like now is the perfect time for Animorphs to stage a major comeback.

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