|This article is written from a Real World point of view.|
- "Yes, I'm smart. That's what got me into trouble with you Animorphs in the first place. But it's also what saved my life on that island. And it's what's going to bring me back and put me on top."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about beating the Animorphs, the Yeerks, and the entire human race. Life, like being the smartest rat on an island of rock and rodents, is what you make it, Rachel. You Animorphs thought you were condemning me to a fate worse than death. But I turned the experience into an opportunity."
- ―David and Rachel
The Return, published in November 2000 and written by Kimberly Morris based on an outline by K.A. Applegate, is the forty-eighth book in the Animorphs series. Due to an editorial oversight, Lisa Harkrader was mistakenly credited with writing the book. It is the fourteenth book narrated by Rachel and the ninth and final book with Rachel as the sole narrator.
David, the "sixth Animorph," is back. When the Animorphs and Ax decided to give another human being the power to morph, it was one of their biggest mistakes. David tried to destroy all of them - and almost succeeded. Rachel and the others thought they'd seen the last of him when they trapped David as a nothlit. Leaving him on a deserted island to live out his days as a rat...
They were wrong.
Rachel knows what a threat David is. He's cunning and dangerous. Worst of all, he knows their secrets. Now he's captured Rachel as part of his plan to take over everything. David wants power. Money. But more than anything, he wants revenge...
The book begins with a cold open into Rachel's dream-within-a-dream to give the impression of reality; the Animorphs are taking a tour of the White House just as the Yeerks launch an attack. Hork-Bajir and Taxxons try to prevent the President from being airlifted away from the scene, but Rachel attacks them and lets the helicopter fly off. Jake approaches her and tells her that he had already told her to de-morph and stay out of the fight, as she was badly injured, but Rachel tells him not to tell her what to do. They have a brief fight for superiority, and Rachel is defeated as she is bleeding to death, however immediately awakens (at the time, believing she has actually awoken from the whole dream) screaming after thinking a stream of blood rather than sweat is running down her cheek.
Following this are a succession of events in the dream, including: Marco, Ax, Tobias and Rachel at Ax's scoop discussing their current situation and the Yeerks' plans, as well as stories appearing on the Internet of first-hand accounts of Yeerk battles (which Rachel notes as actually happening in the real world) and Rachel feeling victimized and set apart by the others for her opinions; Tobias and Rachel flying over the forest, further talking about Rachel's attitude to battle, with Tobias clarifying that "I don't think anyone really understands where you're coming from." Rachel then finally wakes for school, and attends but feels disillusioned and disconnected from everyone and everything; asking Cassie to meet her after school at her farm, Rachel walks to Cassie's barn but is set upon by a large pack of rats, as is Cassie.
It is eventually revealed that this strange event was a manipulation of reality by Crayak, the recurring red light in her dreams and at school. With the help of Crayak, David, the boy who betrayed the Animorphs after being recruited to the team, has returned for revenge on Rachel after she trapped him in rat form (explaining the recurrence of rats earlier). As part of the manipulation of (but still) reality, Rachel awakens in a small cube underground, and David is set in front of her outside the cube by two teenagers. He brags to her about commanding an army of rats to escape from the island, climbing into a boat which belonged to scientists counting the bird population, and doing all sorts of deeds for him once making it back to the mainland, including swarming Rachel and Cassie at her farm. He also claims to have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars since being trapped as a rat by getting into places no human can. He says this is how he has bribed the two teenagers to bring him to Rachel. He also brags and tries to manipulate and sway Rachel, telling her she is a bully for what she did to him, and showing her a locked-up Cassie and forcing Rachel to morph to rat to become a nothlit like him or Cassie will suffocate. Soon Crayak arrives, and Rachel concludes that David has for the most part been lying about his exploits, and he admits he has, and that he has been brought to her by Crayak. The Drode, who has accompanied Crayak, reveals, however, that David's desire for revenge is not their reason for appearing to Rachel.
Crayak intimidates Rachel and shows her what she could be (a far more powerful, taller version of herself with retractable metal claws and all kinds of advanced reflexes) if she accepts his offer to be a leader and stop the Yeerk invasion of Earth; all she has to do is kill Jake. She says "I am one of the good guys," but Crayak tries to sway her by switching her between her rat morph (fighting with David) and "Super-Rachel". He then brings Visser One to her, and they fight, with Rachel triumphing until Crayak switches realities again as Rachel refuses to eliminate him. He and the Drode eventually disappear, calling her a fool and a coward, and insisting she is weak for not living up to her potential.
Rachel appears back in rat morph, but convinces the two teenagers, offering them David's fake stashed cash as a reward, to free her just in time for her to de-morph. They escape when she morphs to grizzly to scare them. David also tries escaping, and Rachel frees Cassie, but tells her to leave without her, telling her she is going after David. Ultimately failing to escape after Rachel follows him, David finds himself in Rachel's clutches again and he begs her to kill him, insisting putting him back on the island would be a fate worse than death. David's ultimate fate is unexplained.
- Marco (Nightmare)
- Ax (Nightmare)
- The Ellimist (Mentioned Only)
- Peter (Mentioned Only)
- Eva (Mentioned Only)
- David (Final Appearance)
- Crayak (Final Appearance)
- The Drode (Final Appearance)
- Visser One
- Grease (Only Appearance)
- Tattoo (Only Appearance)
- Taxxon and Hork-Bajir-Controllers (Nightmare)
- Howlers (Mentioned Only)
- Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic
- Ax's Scoop (Nightmare)
- Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (Mentioned Only)
- USS George Washington (Mentioned Only)
- Dracon beams (Nightmare) (Mentioned)
- Nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (Mentioned Only)
- USS George Washington (Mentioned Only)
- Rachel muses about exposing the Andalite-Yeerk War and forcing the invasion of Earth to go public as she believes it would be more beneficial, which she initially brought up in The Resistance.
- Rachel has reoccurring dreams where she simultaneously respects and hates Jake for being the leader of the Animorphs and ordering him around, and has a nightmare of maiming him to establish dominance.
- Crayak and the Drode, who developed a fascination with Rachel during the events of The Exposed and wished to have her kill Jake for them, rescue David from his marooned island. Rachel is pit against David and later Visser One, with Crayak granting Rachel power in exchange for Jake's life. When Rachel refuses, Crayak and the Drode make their leave, discarding their interest in Rachel.
- David begs Rachel to end his life, citing it to be more humane than leaving him marooned once again. Rachel notices a mirror shard and breaks down in tears, before making her decision. Although the decision is not shown, it is implied that she murdered David.
|Morpher||Morphs acquired||Morphs used|
|Jake||--||Siberian Tiger (Rachel's nightmare only)|
|Rachel||--||Grizzly Bear, Bald Eagle (nightmare only), White Rat (Courtney), Super-Rachel, Alligator, Carnivorous Plant-Like Creature|
|Cassie||--||Wolf (Rachel's nightmare only)|
|Marco||--||Silverback Gorilla (Big Jim; Rachel's nightmare only)|
|Visser One||--||Unnamed Tall Reptilian Acidic Creature, Unnamed Red Goo Creature|
- While trying to escape from the rats, Cassie partially morphs into an unspecified animal.
- Super-Rachel, the alligator and the carnivorous plant-like creature are not actual creatures whose DNA Rachel acquires, but rather creatures she is able to morph by willing them into existence, due to a temporary power bestowed by Crayak.
- The cover quote is, "The sixth Animorph is back, and he's not happy..."
- The inside cover quote is, "Rachel's really hit the big time..."
- This is the first book in the numbered series where all six members of the Animorphs are not present, with Jake and Tobias having brief, non-speaking appearances relegated to a single page while Marco and Ax do not appear at all, except in Rachel's nightmares.
- ANIBASE: The cover of this book features Rachel becoming "Super Rachel", a hyped up version of herself. To create Super Rachel, cover artist David Mattingly hired a female body-builder to pose for the body, then he pasted an image of the Rachel model's face on top of it!
- The book features dialogue quotes from The Solution and The Exposed, with the events from both books heavily mentioned. Rachel also mentions Jake causing the Howlers' elimination (The Attack), her brief tenure as leader when she allowed Cassie to be captured (The Weakness), the attack on the nuclear aircraft carrier (The Deception) and the incident with the campers (The Resistance).
- The cover model has brown eyes, while Rachel has blue eyes.
- The book credits Lisa Harkrader as its ghostwriter, despite the fact that it was Kimberly Morris who wrote the book.
- Elfangor is erroneously referred to as "War-Prince" instead of "Prince."
- Rachel states that the Animorphs comprises of herself, Jake, Tobias, Cassie and Marco, omitting Ax. In both the book itself and the tagline, David is referred to as the sixth Animorph; additionally, the back cover summaries of the majority of the books excludes Ax as a member of the Animorphs, oftern stating "the Animorphs and Ax." This is because the editors, who write the taglines and back cover summaries, do not consider an Ax an Animorph, considering the term 'Animorph' to be human-exclusive. Despite this, the majority of the books so far explicitly state that Ax is a member of the Animorphs (the term 'Animorph' referring to 'animal-morpher' and consisting of four humans, an Andalite and a red-tailed hawk) meaning that Ax is the sixth Animorph while David was the seventh.
- David mentions that he had been forced to live as a rat for months; however, based on the overall timeline, it had been nearly two years since the Animorphs marooned him.
- There's no space between 'Chapter' and '12'.
- Rachel remarks that the Drode had nicknamed her 'Rachel of the Dark Heart' when the first met in The Exposed; however, the Drode never referred to her as such, with this book being the first time the nickname was given to her.
- 'It's' is written in place of 'Its' on p89.
- The book features a few incidents where individuals speaking verbally have their lines written as if they were said in thought-speak: on p87 (the Drode), p108 (Crayak, when speaking to Visser One), and on p133 (Grease).
- On p127 and p133, David's lines are written as if they were said verbally, despite the fact that he is restricted to thought-speak as a rat nothlit.