Maybe you read the series Animorphs—in which an alien gives a group of kids the power to turn into animals—when you were younger, or maybe you just noticed other, nerdier kids buying the books at your school's Scholastic book fair. Personally, I was one of those nerdier kids, intrigued by the book's still-terrifying bad guys, the Yeerks, who were super-intelligent parasitic slugs who controlled human brains by crawling into their ear canal. But even I didn't remember all the horrifying things that happened in these books, as pointed out by this viral Tumblr post:
My favorite: "An ordinary ant gets transformed into a human child. It has no idea what’s happening and is so overwhelmed by its huge new brain and sensory input that it can only scream until it dies."
Holy f*cking sh*t. Here's series author K.A. Applegate's spoiler-filled defense of the book series' insanely dark ending, which, just as a reminder, was targeted at readers in middle school:
Dear Animorphs Readers:
Quite a number of people seem to be annoyed by the final chapter in the Animorphs story. There are a lot of complaints that I let Rachel die. That I let Visser Three/One live. That Cassie and Jake broke up. That Tobias seems to have been reduced to unexpressed grief. That there was no grand, final fight-to-end-all-fights. That there was no happy celebration. And everyone is mad about the cliffhanger ending.
So I thought I'd respond.
Animorphs was always a war story. Wars don't end happily. Not ever. Often relationships that were central during war, dissolve during peace. Some people who were brave and fearless in war are unable to handle peace, feel disconnected and confused. Other times people in war make the move to peace very easily. Always people die in wars. And always people are left shattered by the loss of loved ones.
That's what happens, so that's what I wrote. Jake and Cassie were in love during the war, and end up going their seperate ways afterward. Jake, who was so brave and capable during the war is adrift during the peace. Marco and Ax, on the other hand, move easily past the war and even manage to use their experience to good effect. Rachel dies, and Tobias will never get over it. That doesn't by any means cover everything that happens in a war, but it's a start.
Here's what doesn't happen in war: there are no wondrous, climactic battles that leave the good guys standing tall and the bad guys lying in the dirt. Life isn't a World Wrestling Federation Smackdown. Even the people who win a war, who survive and come out the other side with the conviction that they have done something brave and necessary, don't do a lot of celebrating. There's very little chanting of 'we're number one' among people who've personally experienced war.
I'm just a writer, and my main goal was always to entertain. But I've never let Animorphs turn into just another painless video game version of war, and I wasn't going to do it at the end. I've spent 60 books telling a strange, fanciful war story, sometimes very seriously, sometimes more tongue-in-cheek. I've written a lot of action and a lot of humor and a lot of sheer nonsense. But I have also, again and again, challenged readers to think about what they were reading. To think about the right and wrong, not just the who-beat-who. And to tell you the truth I'm a little shocked that so many readers seemed to believe I'd wrap it all up with a lot of high-fiving and backslapping. Wars very often end, sad to say, just as ours did: with a nearly seamless transition to another war.
So, you don't like the way our little fictional war came out? You don't like Rachel dead and Tobias shattered and Jake guilt-ridden? You don't like that one war simply led to another? Fine. Pretty soon you'll all be of voting age, and of draft age. So when someone proposes a war, remember that even the most necessary wars, even the rare wars where the lines of good and evil are clear and clean, end with a lot of people dead, a lot of people crippled, and a lot of orphans, widows and grieving parents.
If you're mad at me because that's what you have to take away from Animorphs, too bad. I couldn't have written it any other way and remained true to the respect I have always felt for Animorphs readers.