I love your blog and your Animorphs analyses! I was wondering, what are your favorite two-person relationships (platonic or otherwise) in the team? Or if you'd like to talk about how you see each and every character pair in the team, I'd be really interested in your thoughts - but if you'd rather not get that lengthy, I'd love just to hear about your favorite dynamics. :)
Let’s talk about Rachel and Jake. Let’s talk about how it is so easy to forget that Jake is the baby of his family whereas Rachel’s the oldest child in hers until you run into all the moments where they act like a big sister and little brother to one another. About the fact that Rachel never lets anyone tell her what to do unless it’s Jake, because he’s the only person alive she trusts more than herself. About Jake freely admitting time and again that he never would have made it through the war without Rachel’s support. About Rachel turning down the chance to end the war and save herself because the life of this one guy who is friend and family and compatriot to her is too high a price to pay.
Let’s talk about the number of times Jake compares Rachel to a superhero: Storm, Rogue, Wonder Woman. About Rachel telling Marco that she hopes Jake would make the decision about whether to kill a family member for her, because she trusts his judgment more than her own. About the fact that, as far as I can tell, the only time Rachel drops the “L” word is when Visser Four insists that she won’t kill him and she says “oh, but I can… you killed someone I love” (MM3). About how well these two trust and know each other literally from the first minute they find themselves running from hork-bajir-controllers through the construction site. About Jake still going to visit Rachel every day after her death because she’s the only one who would understand all the terrible things he’s done.
Their friendship (siblingship? bromance?) is so awesome specifically because it’s built on the understanding that neither one of them is a particularly good person, but that these two are willing to use that grittiness to stand between Cassie-Marco-Tobias-Ax and the harshest realities of the war. It’s not just about the fact that Rachel assumes responsibility for David because she feels like she can take on that burden if and only if it will spare Cassie from doing the same (#22, #48). It’s not just Jake insisting on always, always putting a good face on his own summation of the mission no matter how much he hates himself at the time (#25, #36, #16). It’s also about these two literally being the first into battle and the last to retreat time after time (#41, #36, #2, #53, half the books in the series) because they are the only ones who can laugh off fatal wounds and keep going for the hell of it. Cassie and Ax are each in their own way idealists. Tobias and Marco might be more cynical, but they’re also both more emotionally vulnerable. Jake and Rachel see their darkest selves reflected in one another—Rachel’s the only one who knows that Jake’s addicted to the power, just like Jake’s the only one who realizes that so much of Rachel’s rage is driven by arrogance—and use those demons to do what they must to protect their friends.
Not only that, but while Jake is so concerned with protecting the team as a whole, Rachel is the only one who protects Jake. When facing David in the shopping mall (#22), when attacking Ax for challenging Jake (#18), when struggling to shield him from Visser Three and being trapped in morph (#2), when threatening to kill Tom to keep him away from Jake (#53), Rachel is the one who ensures that anyone who hurts her cousin is going to thoroughly regret it.
A rundown of my favorite moments between them, in no particular order:
On my way out of math class, Jake came sidling up next to me. “Meeting later, okay?… The church tower, where we were the other day.”
“Okay, but it’s a long walk.”
He turned around to face me, walking backward and grinning. “So don’t walk,” he said. (#2)
- I love how, even after surviving one god-awful battle where both Jake’s brother and Rachel’s soon-to-be-boyfriend were casualties, these two are still riding the high of being able to morph so much that they still swagger around like they’re invincible. They’re both total adrenaline junkies well before the war begins (Rachel showing off with dangerous vaults, Jake climbing abandoned cranes) and the chance to fall out of the sky at 200 miles per hour without going splat on the ground is a dream come true for them both.
Tom flinched. Too late! The baseball bat came down hard on his gun hand. "Ahhh!“ he yelled. The ray gun clattered down the steps. The bat came up fast, caught Tom in the face. Then, one! Two! Three!
Three stiff, hard blows and Tom was down, curled in a ball, groaning, eyes rolling, blood gushing from his nose and ear.
I stared at my cousin. Rachel was breathing hard. But her outfit, hair, and makeup had remained perfect. (MM4)
- Rachel showing up out of NOWHERE and saving Jake’s sorry butt will forever be one of my favorite moments in the whole series, because she has no clue what’s going on. She just sees her cousin hurting his little brother and intervenes with maximal force. Jake and Rachel die in this book without ever figuring out what yeerks are, who Ax is, or how bad the war has gotten, but they also go down fighting. Even without information, even without their ultimate super-weapon, if they see a wrong then they will pick up whatever weapon comes to hand and start trying to fight back.
<Rachel! Explain to David that he needs to knock it off!> I snapped.
Rachel was on all fours. She half rose up to a sort of bear crouch. She reached out with her left paw and swung hard. She connected with David’s snarling, snapping jaw. David staggered. (#21)
- This moment is not, perhaps, particularly flattering toward either of the Berensons. Jake is ordering Rachel to physically harm a kid their own age in order to enforce his leadership, and Rachel is obeying without question or even any need for clarification about what Jake means. However, it also shows just how much these two trust each other and grasp that sometimes any means will justify the end of saving one’s team’s lives.
“Okay, fine, Rachel. You want to do this, fine. I think you’re the bravest member of the group. I think in a bad fight I’d rather have you with me than anyone else. But yeah, Rachel, I think there’s something pretty dark down inside you. I think you’re the only one of us who would be disappointed if all this ended tomorrow… It’s what makes you so brave. It’s what makes you so dangerous to the Yeerks… I feel like this war is to you like booze is to an alcoholic. Like I don’t know what will happen to you if it all ends someday. What are you going to do? Go back to being the world’s greatest shopper? Go back to gymnastics and getting good grades?”
I laughed harshly. “You worry about me? What do you think you’re going to do? Jake, you’re a leader now. You make life-and-death decisions. All the time. You’ve learned to do that. And,” I added bitterly, “you’ve learned to use people. You use them for their strengths and their weaknesses. Worry about me? Like when all this is over you’ll go back to being a mediocre basketball player and a decent student? You’re not even in high school yet and you’re the most wanted person in the Yeerk Empire. Visser Three would trade his Blade ship for your head on a stick… Maybe I do kind of get off on it all. But I still know where the line is. And I won’t cross it. I am not some kind of nut. I know what I’m doing.”
Jake nodded. “I know you do. But everyone draws their own line. Cassie’s is in one place. Marco’s is somewhere else. Yours is in another. Mine .. .” He made a failed attempt at a smile. “For example, see, I used to think my line was drawn at using my friend, my cousin, to do my dirty work. Guess that turned out not to be true. Sorry, Rachel.”
I have no idea why I did what happened next. Because I’m really not that kind of person. But I hugged Jake. And he hugged me back. (#22)
- Jake and Rachel are fairly terrible people, as I mentioned before. They enjoy the war, they miss it when they’re not fighting it, and they thrill in the power it gives them. But they also know right from wrong. They know that they’re not like other kids their age, and they’ve already accrued irreparable damage to their morals standards by the time they are at the point of debating how to kill one of their teammates. They also recognize that they are in this together, and that they are willing to get their own hands dirty if it keeps their friends’ clean.
I explained what I wanted her to do.
<You’re sure, Jake?> she asked solemnly when I had finished. <Because if you tell me “Go!” I’ll follow your orders. You know what that means.><Yeah, Rachel, I know what it means.>
Still she hesitated. <It won’t be the Yeerk, Jake. It’ll be Tom. It’ll be him.
<I know that,> I said. <And I … if it happens, if it comes down that way, I don’t have a plan for getting you out. You’d be on your own.>
<That’s how I like it.>… Rachel said, <Okay, Jake. You’re right. And you’re right to use me for this. Not exactly something I’m proud of, maybe, but later, you know, if — don’t be blaming yourself, okay?> She angled her eagle’s wings to take the wind, and flew away. (#53)
- Jake asks Rachel to kill her cousin and then get herself killed in turn… and she responds with compassion. Jake is right that she is the only one capable of completing this mission, as she freely admits herself, but she also understands that he’s the only one capable of making this decision. The situation sucks all around, and they can’t do a thing to change that fact, so Rachel’s right: the only thing for it is to go forward, and not to let Jake blame himself. Of course, that doesn’t exactly work… But we all appreciate her trying.
I stopped walking. I looked at Jake. “How do you do this? How do you make decisions that may get people killed? How do you live with that?”
“It’s a war,” he said. “We do what we have to do because we’re forced to do it, right? Someday it will all be over. Someday the Andalites will come. Or the Yeerks will decide we’re not worth it. Someday we’ll win.”
“Maybe. But how do you make decisions that get your friends hurt? That maybe someday will get us killed? How do you keep it from getting inside your head and just eating away at you?”
Then I saw something strange on his face. For just a fleeting moment it was the face of a terrified kid on the edge of tears. It shocked me. I knew what I was seeing. It was my face when I’d realized the old man had died. My face when I thought I’d lost Cassie forever. But then the mask came down. And he was Jake again. “I don’t think about it,” he lied. (#37)
- No comment necessary.