You were the first book character that I ever remember making me cry. It’s hard to find a higher honor than that. I don’t even know how many years it’s been since then, but your story will continue to stick with me for the rest of my life.
The Animorphs. You, your friends, all dragged into a war no one, especially not unprepared kids, should have had to fight. But someone had to, and it could only be you guys. For supposed children’s books, the stories were pretty dark.
I picked one of your books to read first, at an old Scholastic Book Fair. #17, The Underground. At the time, I figured I could catch up on the previous ones at the library. Serial storytelling was a lot different those days, haha. But what struck me was the dissonance of the cover, which I would later realize was the very dissonance in you yourself. There was this pink trim, lots of pink and purple and feminine colors. And a beautiful blonde girl…. Hideously transforming into a monster, a bat. To go fight aliens. At the time, that was unheard of to me. The idea that a heroine could be pretty and girly and also threatening and scary. Feminism wasn’t something we talked about at our house. Girls were either pretty princesses or rough tomboys, nothing in between. But you were all of the above, and more.
A gymnast and a shopaholic, with super model looks and the clothes to match. A warrior soaked in blood, living for the adrenaline of battle and watching her enemies fall, enjoying it maybe a little too much. At the time, I didn’t realize how important that was in a female character. I was a kid. Life had given me such a narrow view of what woman could be, and you shattered all those stereotypes and built a new world of options.
I know sometimes you were afraid you might be a monster. But I want you to know that I’ve seen every thought you have, every decision you made in this war. And the Ellimist is right- you were brave, you were strong, you were good. And reading your story helped push me to be those things myself. You were the first real literary role model I had, more than any of the other Animorphs, even more than Cassie, who you and I both know really would have been the more obvious choice.
There was a lot of darkness in you, darkness that defined you. You weren’t perfect. At times, you weren’t even a “hero”, not in the traditional sense, but even that was an act of love on your part. You were the bad guy when needed, to spare the innocence of others. You sacrificed not just your life, but your soul, so that the people you loved could survive. A martyr, but not a saint. And when you died, I wept.
You matter, so much, to the little girl I was then and the woman I am now, and I hope to love with half the strength you did.