Yay! This is the last book I needed to reread again for this blog. Todd Reads is now caught up with where I left off in the series. I’m excited. It’s tough rereading a book you have just recently read when you really want to move on, and especially this book. For a book that is 158 pages, The Secret feels like it is over 300. A lot happens; I think there are at least three plots occurring simultaneously, and each of them is heavy.
Cassie is fleshed out a ton. I think she is a character that could very easily fall into the “best friend” role, and she does from time to time, falling behind Rachel and paling in comparison, but this book gives her footing. It’s like she’s standing up and saying, “This is who I am and this is what I care about.” She proves she is definitely not one to be pushed around. In a way, The Secret is the definitive Cassie book, and I have a lot of thoughts on it. Let’s dig in.
Plot Synopsis (Spoiler-Free)
The Yeerks are logging and destroying forest near Cassie’s home, the same forest that Ax and Tobias live. The Animorphs have to stop them at all costs.
I love and hate this entry in the series. It is interesting and engaging without being fun. It’s dark and heavy, and while I love and appreciate seeing Cassie flesh out as a character here, I am thankful a Marco book is next, because I need a lighter read after this.
1. Plot – The Secret is interesting because the plot with the Yeerks logging the forest Ax and Tobias reside seems to be on the backburner of the book. The main plot here is Cassie’s breakdown. How can she know what is right and what is wrong? Where does she fit in with nature? With the war? Which animals are worth saving and which aren’t? That brings me to the termites vs. the skunks.
There is a really dark, twisted scene in this book where the Animorphs have morphed termites and are trying to get past the Yeerks’ forcefield. They lose control of their morphs and are sucked into the pull of the queen termite. Cassie has to trick her brain into thinking the queen is an enemy ant to bite the head of the queen off. She kills the queen, and she reasons, the colony, to save herself. I read somewhere that termite colonies have more than one queen, so maybe Cassie was wrong. I digress, though. Cassie is torn up about this because it wasn’t natural for her to be in the termite colony. The queen should have never been an issue. That colony only died because the Animorphs crossed paths with them…
Like a skunk happened to get shot by a dracon beam in the woods because the Animorphs were there. Cassie and her father pick up the injured skunk and take it to their rehabilitation clinic to heal. Unfortunately, the skunk has a den of kits that will die without their mother. Cassie makes it her mission to save those kits. This whole plot line is dark as well. Cassie finds out that Tobias ate one of the kits, but he’s a hawk who has a right to survive. Cassie also almost gets stuck in skunk morph because she falls asleep cuddled up with the kits. These skunks are where we can tell that Cassie is losing her grip on reality. She can’t tell what is important anymore. Luckily, she has Jake.
Cassie’s dilemma with the skunks is an interesting one. Why was it okay for the termites to die, but Cassie feels so disturbed by the skunk kit being eaten by Tobias and she can’t let the others die?
This book’s plot is multilayered and interesting, even if it’s dark and depressing.
2. Cassie Characterization – I think books 5-9 have really shown us what the war has done to each of the Animorphs. We got to see what it was doing to Ax in the last book. In this book, we get to see what it has done to Cassie. So far, she has been the voice of reason, and with bold characters like Rachel and Marco, Cassie has kind of faded into the back of the group. Here, we get to see that she isn’t untouched; she is messed up, too.
Marco shrugged. “You know, actually it’s kind of a relief finding out Cassie is crazy. We know Rachel’s nuts. We know I’m crazy. Cassie’s bee the only sane one for so long. Welcome to the loony bin, Cassie! Save the skunks!”
It is interesting seeing Jake reprimand Cassie. We will see more of that as the series goes on. Jake cares about Cassie a lot, and when she gets down, she makes terrible decisions. In this book, it is her dangerous obsession with the skunks. It is clear that Jake isn’t exactly comfortable reprimanding Cassie, unlike he is with Rachel and Marco. I think it could be due to how fragile Cassie seems, but I’m sure their mutual crush comes into play.
Tobias and Cassie have an interesting relationship. It’s not one I have focused on in the past, and it’s one I want to examine closer as I reread more of the books. All of the Animorphs are close to different characters: Jake has Marco, Cassie, and Rachel. Rachel is close to Cassie and Tobias. Tobias is close to Rachel and Ax. Cassie is close to Rachel and Jake. Marco is close to just Jake, really. But, Cassie and Tobias?
In this book, Cassie becomes disgusted and angry with Tobias when she finds out he ate one of the skunk kits. Jake naturally pairs them together when he splits the group up for their mission. The tension is palpable. Cassie ends up apologizing to Tobias for getting angry with him about the kit, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for the two becoming close friends. What’s interesting, though, is that Tobias indulges Cassie’s obsession with the skunk kits. He volunteers to lead her to them, and he watches her morph a skunk and join them. He also flies away to tell Jake. He did the same to Ax last book. Tobias is becoming quite the tattle-tell.
Cassie begins to question the animal world in this book. What makes killing one animal right and killing another wrong? What part do animals play in this series? Are they just weapons for fighting the Yeerks? Definitely not to Cassie. How Cassie examines the animal world in this book is interesting to me because it brings an interesting perspective to the Yeerks. Cassie concludes that animals do what they have to do to survive. Humans are just trying to survive as well.
<Look, Cassie, you’re human. Homo sapien. Your job is to keep yourself and your species alive. That’s all nature wants from you. That’s the whole point of evolution–to survive.> [Tobias] sounded angry.
Now, what does that say about the Yeerks? Is what they are doing wrong if they are simply trying to survive and live their best lives? Tobias says killing an animal he doesn’t intend to eat is wrong, but killing to eat is fine. What if the Yeerks are infesting to live?
I love how introspective Cassie is.
This isn’t a really a weakness, but I’m going to discuss this here because it puts many fans off.
1. Weight – As I wrote at the beginning of this review, this book is heavy. I think it is in this series’ nature to be dark because it’s about war, but this one didn’t let up. Tobias ate a baby skunk. Cassie killed a termite queen in a horrific scene for her and the reader. And Cassie obsesses over and questions every action she and the Animorphs make. It’s exhausting and it’s depressing. It is similar to The Encounter for me in this way.
I have been thinking about this for a couple days and trying to pinpoint the problem, and I think the problem is Cassie. If Marco were the narrator, there would be some comic relief. Jake would bring some hope to it. Rachel would bring resilience and purpose. Cassie just laments on how flawed she and humanity are. Although the ending with Visser Three is kind of funny, we are not really taken out of that dark place.
Knowing where Cassie goes as a character, however, I like this book. I just think this may be why Cassie is so many peoples’ least favorite Animorph. Her books are heavy.
Cover and Tagline
I like this cover a lot. I was motivated to pick this book up as a kid. I love wolves, and it’s a cool morph. Looking back at the book as an adult, I question the animal being morphed. Cassie does morph a wolf in this book, but it is not the central or most important animal in this book. There’s no rule, of course, but I like it when the cover art morph ties into the book at a deep level. The grizzly bear morph on The Stranger did that because Rachel morphed the bear without telling any of the other Animorphs she had acquired it, and it touched on the isolation theme of the book. The wolf doesn’t say anything here. I would have liked a cover with Cassie morphing a skunk. The skunk morph was so important in this book.
Tagline: No place to run. No place to hide . . .
The tagline is somewhat generic and could fit any book, but I think it really works well for The Secret. The Yeerks are honing in on Tobias and Ax’s territory where they hide, so it touches on the main plot, but on a deeper level, I think it comment on Cassie and how her values are catching up on her. She can’t escape them.
I have wracked my brain trying to figure out what the title alludes to, and I have even asked some friends I have from my days in the Animorphs online community, but I don’t have anything strong. The secret could be where Ax lives. The secret could be that tomato juice is what gets rid of skunk stench. I guess the secret could also be what is right and what is wrong in nature. What are your thoughts?
The Secret is not bad by any means; there are definitely worse books in the series. I wouldn’t necessarily say reading it was fun like other books in the series have been for me, though. It teeters awfully close to The Encounter in its mood and tone. Cassie and Tobias can definitely bring down a party. Books like this are necessary in this series, though, because as cool as the Animorphs are, war is dark, and nature is dark. This book touches on the blend of the two, and it’s interesting because they should naturally go hand in hand in this series; the Animorphs fight the war by using animals, which are nature. I like that this book has readers consider that. I also like that the book has us consider how dark nature can be. This book is disturbing even if you take the Yeerks out of it.
My favorite thing about The Secret is that Cassie has finally come into her own. She is definitely not a background “best friend” character, and love her or hate her, she brings a unique perspective to the series.