The Invasion - Katherine Applegate Don't let the rating fool you; reading this book initiated the most significant literary experience of my life. It started in grade school and ended much too soon in high school. I read all of the books in the Animorphs universe, and after years of dragging my mom to the book store to buy me the latest Animorphs release, I finished the last book with a feeling of gratification, nostalgia, and love.

It seems silly and frankly impossible to describe to what extent this series has touched me. It's not been just an influence in my life--it is a part of my life. I can only start off by saying that I blame Animorphs for my interest sci-fi, physics, biology, genetics, ethics, animals, war tactics, and basically almost every aspect of my intellectual and emotional life. The books opened up galaxies, physics, technology, alternate universes and other fantastic ideas to my impressionable young mind. It made me believe that things like speed-of-light travel and paradigm-shifting catastrophies were possible, even if they don't exist (yet).

I also can't think of better characters with whom I could interact monthly. Each Animorph, and each protagonist and antagonist that they encounter, all had motives and desires and ambitions that made them so likable even when you hated them. K.A. Applegate was able to humanize the least human of aliens, from the all-powerful and godlike Ellimist to the hunger-driven monstrosities called Taxxons. My heart broke even for the seemingly sinister assistant vice principal when I discovered his role in the series. While exposing the flaws of each being, human or not, friend or foe, Animorphs showed us how to care for them, to sympathize with them as fellow creatures on this grand stage called life. More than anything, the capacity to care and to understand is what I walked away with, and I thank Ms. Applegate forever for that.

K.A. Applegate, with her humor and intellect, constructed one of the most encompassing YA series to this day. I've yet to read anything of the emotional depth and sympathy of Animorphs. And I'm not just talking about sympathy for another person, but for mankind, for alien species, for the enemy--and most of all, for people who are different from us. What we don't know, we fear, and while sometimes this is justified, Animorphs taught me that a second and third and fourth look is always merited. This was the first series that taught me that the world is a canvas painted with shades of gray, that nothing is fair, and that the good guys may not always win. But the series also taught me about the power of sacrifice, duty, and love. They were hard but valuable lessons.

The series might be too young for adults to pick up. Undoubtedly my affection for this series plays some part in my re-reading the books every now and then. Each individual book has its strengths and weaknesses, and some are better than others. Some books are scary, others humorous, and a few heartbreaking. But with Animorphs, it's the series that packs a powerful punch. If I could rate a series, I would give Animorphs 100 Big Gold Stars.