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The Illusion

(Animorphs #33)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  2,381 ratings  ·  79 reviews
The Yeerks possess a weapon that could be the biggest threat to the Animorphs yet. The anti-morphing ray transforms a person in morph back to natural form. Unless they find and destroy the top-secret ray, the Animorphs could be exposed for good.
Mass Market Paperback, 156 pages
Published September 1999 by Scholastic Paperbacks
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  2,381 ratings  ·  79 reviews

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May 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Ghostwriter: Ellen Geroux.

So, speaking of Tobias and identity issues...

I keep mentioning that the last several books have been painful, and this one is no exception. The plot actually picks up on the mission introduced in the previous book: the Yeerks are developing an Anti-Morphing Ray, and so the Animorphs decide to use Tobias as bait in order to make the Yeerks think that it doesn't work. They willingly let Tobias be captured to further their aims.

Sacrifice and hard decisions have been the de
The grimness of this series shouldn't still surprise me, but given that this book is 50% literal Tobias-torture, it does. This don't significantly progress Tobias's character, mostly rehashing the themes of The Pretender (Book 23) and turning them up to 11, but it finally resolves (or appears to) the Rachel/Tobias tension. I argue with aspects of their dynamic (I'm convinced that Rachel's conflict would be largely internal; putting the burden on him isn't just unfair, it requires honesty/self-kn ...more
Kara Babcock
Aug 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Damn but the cuts keep coming.

This is probably one of my favourite books of the series. The Illusion is Tobias’ moment. Although early books in the series address the challenges Tobias faces living as a hawk, this book drives home the incompatibility of his life with human lives. Red-tailed hawks don’t live as long as humans. Tobias can only assume human form for two hour intervals, assuming he doesn’t want to lose his morphing ability. And as his friends age in their human forms, his human morp
Janelle Dazzlepants
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
   This book was so incredibly difficult to read. Usually, I have a hard time slowing down as I read these. Not this one. No, this one I could not not read slowly. It hurt to read, and not for any deficiency in the writing or the story. It hurt to read because of what happens, what Tobias suffers on this mission. If we thought he had already suffered and lost enough – getting trapped as a red-tailed hawk, having to survive as a hawk, gaining back his morphing ability but staying a hawk, learning ...more
Jenny Clark
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: animorphs, childrens
Poor Tobias, fighting to stay in the battle, fighting to stay human, fighting to stay with Rachel...
"We're the same you and me. Warriors. But you've got to realize that there's more I'm not just a warrior," she said, her blue eyes glittering so close to mine "I'm a girl. I'm trying not to let myself be dragged off the cliff, away from all normalcy, into this insane life we live. I don't like what it does to me, Tobias, and I need to be a girl again. I need a little bit of normalcy, okay? Not a l
The Library Ladies
(Full review here at the

Narrator: Tobias

Plot: What made getting through the last book so terrible (beyond the fact that it was god awful all on its own) was that I knew this one was coming up next. And this was one of my favorites as a kid growing up. Other than the first few and the David trilogy, this was by far the book I re-read the most and thus one of the rare later series stories that I have clear memories of. And yet, even I didn’t remember just how sob-worthy this
May 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Back to what I've come to expect from this series! ...more
Aurora Dimitre
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: october-2019
love me a children's book that is a good 90% extended torture sequence ...more
Jonathan Pongratz
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction, ya
Original Review at Jaunts & Haunts

I gave this novel four stars!

Following up from the last installment, the Yeerks are continuing to ramp up their preparation of the anti-morphing ray, a serious threat to the Animorphs. With a large gathering of the Sharing looming, the Animorphs jump into action, determined to destroy the technology.

This was a fun read, and this time around we’re in Tobias’s POV.

Tobias I think is maybe the most insightful and self-aware member of the Animorphs crew, and I think
Apr 08, 2020 added it
I’ve been on an Animorphs binge for the last 2-3 weeks, re reading my favourite middle school series. While I don’t have time to review each book, this was one I had to.

Why, you ask? So for all the books, my thought process has been along the lines of :

12 year old me- yayyyy aliens and animals good vs evil things blowing up sooo cool!
22 year old me- okay this shit is bleak, we’re debating futility of war and morality of warriors, sentience and conscience, till what level is control of an entity
Jul 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
While this was apparently one of the ghostwritten books, it felt like more authentic than some of the others have been. This one is from Tobias’ POV and I loved the exploration into his identity issues, especially because of his unique predicament.

There is also a new mission that only Tobias can pull off and it ends up being even more dangerous than the gang could have imagined. Poor Tobias is tortured and those scenes made me cringe. I liked the flashbacks of his life, giving even more insight
Kate Crabtree
Nov 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Tobias gets captured (willingly to aid a plot that will help the Animorphs) gets tortured endlessly, almost dies, wonders who he really is (hawk? Boy? Andalite?), and is saved in a messy retrieval mission. Despite the obvious trauma that’s gonna follow Tobias for life after that shit show, we end the book with everyone going to the beach and a Rachel/Tobias kiss. He even says Rachel loves him at the end.

I almost want to say “aaaaw” to that, but at the beginning of the book Tobias suspects Rache
Jay DeMoir
Nov 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Whew! Poor Tobias!
I enjoyed how dark and twisty this one was. Even though it started slow, it quickly picked up. I won't spoil it, but I'll just empathically cry for Tobias.

Dec 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2020
Ah, the torture book. Such a difficult read. So well done.
Aug 11, 2020 added it
:( for like 75% of this book
not because it's bad writing - it's just horrific to read
:') for the last scene though
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
5/5 excellent book! So glad I've kept reading.

Read this one again, it was so good! This book really adds some depth to Tobias.


The whole Tobias being captured on purpose, plot, and his issues with identity are thought provoking to say the least. I really enjoyed this one.
Alan Gilfoy
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Tobias' hawk issues sure sure showed up quickly, but slightly differently than his usual angst. It's clear he's fawning over Rachel - can't blame him for that. It makes sense that the species barrier would get to them, that Rachel wants some normalcy. "She's not all warrior" seems like a nod to the split personality of the last book.

It looks like Erek is creating a diversion for them, or he came to tell the Animorphs something and needed to come up with a distraction for himself.

There was great
Julie Decker
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Tobias is yet again confused about his nature, caught between bird and human (with a bit of Andalite on the side). After some confusion with Rachel suggesting she wants Tobias to be human, the team has to go after the Anti-Morphing Ray and Tobias volunteers himself as the one to be captured, because if they use the ray on him he won't turn into a human and they'll think the ray doesn't work. Their plan to infiltrate The Sharing's community center and fall deliberately into the Yeerks' trap goes ...more
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Holy crow, you want to talk about right in the feels? On a certain level, I can't believe Scholastic had the guts/temerity to publish and market this and give it to kids. I am so incredibly glad they did, but whoa; even as an adult this rips my heart out and stomps on it.

My one biggest beef with this would be that they carry forward the mission from the last book, but it seems absolutely no one has anything to say about Rachel being one person again. I think Applegate lost out on so much by not
Dec 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
And this is the whole book where pretty much everyone else ends up treating Tobias incredibly badly.

First, Rachel. She's taken Tobias to a dance; so far, so good. Except that his time in morph is running out, and while it's ultimately left ambiguous whether or not she's doing this deliberately, she does keep distracting him while he's desperately trying to keep track of how much time he has left and find a safe place to demorph, and then insists on having some deep discussion about wanting norma
Jun 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite-books, own
Okay I need to get serious for a second. This book exploded me. Any emotional damage I have as an adult is PROBABLY FROM READING THIS AS A TWELVE YEAR OLD (thanks mom) (but seriously, thanks mom). I wonder if this book - my favourite from the regular series, a book I read so often I carried it with me everywhere and eventually lost it - is how I came to love the things I love. How all pain has a root that I love to unearth; how pleasure can hurt more than anything, how the memory of it is what m ...more
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: I'm reading this series for the first time as an adult. (Unfortunately) I have no fond memories coloring my reading.

In the last book, for the first time in the series, the Animorphs tortured one of their enemies. In this book, the tables turned. This whole book was about one of the Animorphs being tortured.

Let me repeat that: This whole book was about one of the main characters being tortured. Not the setup to torture, not dealing with the aftermath of being tortured. The whole book
Brit McCarthy
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
33 books in, and if you ever had any doubt about the darkness and intensity of these books, doubt no more.

The Animorphs are forced to make choices and face realities that no other kid would understand. Every now and then, they see humanity even in their enemies. I don't know (and can't remember) if that can happen ever again after this book.

Tobias's story is a sad one, regardless. Unwanted by his relatives, he has made his peace and accepted his life as a red-tailed hawk. But there are times whe
Chelsea Gouin
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: animorphs
Lovely Tobias. <3 This book was really intense and I had to remind myself it was aimed at a young audience. It gets way dark and deep by the end of it. It starts out fun enough with Tobias and Rachel on a date but quickly goes south when Erak reveals a plan involving the Yerks anti-morphing ray. So Tobias is the chosen one for the mission, being a nolilth and his primary body being that of hawk, they can trick the Visser into thinking the ray is a failure. There is an intense torture scene where ...more
Joshua Glasgow
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it
Strangely, reading this book was the first time I was like, “Wait. They have the Escafil device now. Can’t Tobias just... let the two hours pass and then get the power to morph again?” All the hand-wringing about whether he’s a bird or a man could be solved instantaneously.

Of course, I recognize that he doesn’t particularly *want* to be human again. And there’s undoubtedly some technical explanation that could be deployed, like that the Escafil device only works for each person once because of b
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just to be clear, this is a book aimed at kids. So, it's probably a little surprising that about fifty percent of the books is just one of the Animorphs being tortured.

This series is fucking weird, and I love it.
Beau N.
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's somewhere around here that I forget if I've read the book or not, but this one I definitely read. I'm pretty sure it broke my young heart, too. ...more
Jonathan Grant
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This one was pretty good. Liked Taylor's character. Tobias' torture bit kind of a dragged ... in a bad way though. ...more
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This one really got me. It’s very emotional
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also published under the name Katherine Applegate ...more

Other books in the series

Animorphs (1 - 10 of 54 books)
  • The Invasion (Animorphs, #1)
  • The Visitor (Animorphs, #2)
  • The Encounter (Animorphs, #3)
  • The Message (Animorphs, #4)
  • The Predator (Animorphs, #5)
  • The Capture (Animorphs, #6)
  • The Stranger (Animorphs, #7)
  • The Alien (Animorphs, #8)
  • The Secret (Animorphs, #9)
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