I actually thought this was a different Tobias book when I started reading it, but it’s okay because I still really like this one. Just have to wait a bit longer for the one I thought this was. Which is apparently #23. Dammit, Ashley’s brain! It doesn’t actually change too much of what I wanted to say about it, though. And this book has confirmed something for me. As a kid, Marco was my favorite. I thought he was hilarious. But as an adult, it’s sweet, lonely, conflicted Tobias who’s the character that appeals to me the most.
The Change is NOT the one where Tobias finds out the Big Secret™ about (view spoiler)[his parentage. (hide spoiler)] But if you read The Andalite Chronicles in the correct order, then while reading this book, you no doubt had that secret hanging over your reading of this one as the world’s most obvious form of dramatic irony. WE know that Tobias’s parents were SPOILER Loren and Elfangor in human morph END SPOILER, but nobody else will find out about it for TEN BOOKS. URGGGGH WAITING. But The Change is an important book for Tobias nonetheless.
Rachel and Tobias are out flying when all of a sudden, they are someplace they didn’t intend to be, watching as two Hork-Bajir warriors apparently flee the Yeerks. They are, of course, compelled to help the fugitive aliens, and figure they’ll worry about what the hell is actually going later. The rest of the Animorphs get pulled in as well when it becomes clear that the two Hork-Bajir, Jara Hamee and Ket Halpak, are the first free Hork-Bajir in a very long time. And the Yeerks are doing everything they can to bring them back in or make sure they don’t escape alive.
It’s probably the most successfully action-packed one of these books yet. Sometimes with action-oriented stories, you run the risk of it becoming emotionally uninteresting, but here with the double-whammy of Tobias feeling incredibly conflicted about his identity as a hawk/human/Animorph, and the plight of the two Hork-Bajir (which once again broadens the scope of the world-building very nicely), it isn’t a problem.
So it turns out that, surprise, SPOILERS it’s the Ellimist pulling Tobias’s strings. Once again, he’s interfering without interfering, this time to not only save the Hork-Bajir, but to give Tobias what he’s been wanting since he was stuck in his morph back in the first book. He promises Tobias he’ll give him what he wants if Tobias does this for him, allows himself to be used. Tobias accepts the bargain, imagining for himself a fantasy life as a human that he never actually had when he was one. But when the Ellimist doesn’t make him human again, only gives him back his morphing abilities, Tobias fights against the idea that THIS is what he wanted, deep down. To be back in action and useful again, not to go back to a life where he felt helpless and alone. That being a hawk/human hybrid thing is who he is now. I mean, it’s a weird thing to have to accept about yourself, so I don’t blame him. Anyway, the Ellimist sort of keeps the intention of his promise by taking Tobias back in time so he can acquire himself as a morph. He’s still a boy in a hawk body, but now he can morph, and pretend to be human, if only for a little while. END SPOILERS
What fascinates me about Tobias, and that is perfectly on display in this book, is how the war with the Yeerks has specifically changed and isolated him, even from the other Animorphs, who are exactly the people who would be able to understand what he’s going through. They are all in this fight, but none of them have suffered a loss like Tobias has. And that’s just the emotional barriers between them. There are literal and logistical barriers scattered all throughout Tobias’s life. He can’t do anything a hawk can’t do. He can’t go to school. He has no family to go home to at the end of a mission. He catches and kills his own food. The loneliness of being a child soldier is extra concentrated in Tobias, the isolation and fear and awareness of differences. But he does find solace in Rachel and her warrior nature, and in Ax who is also alone and isolated as the only Andalite among human companions.
Tobias also feels kinship with the fugitive Hork-Bajir, and not just because it’s them against the Yeerks. They (and all the Hork-Bajir) are innocent victims in the war between the Andalites and Yeerks. To really stick the knife in, we learn here that the Hork-Bajir are an incredibly peaceful race, that their “blades” evolved not as fighting or defense mechanisms, but as a way for them to strip bark from the trees for nourishment.
I remember the next book in the series being kind of blah. It’s Cassie and horses, so who knows? Maybe the horses will carry it.