The Alien Invasion: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey The-5th-Wave-Rick-Yancey-Book-Cover

Published: May 7th 2013 by Putnam Juvenile/Penguin

Source: ARC from publisher

Synopsis (Goodreads): After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

My thoughts: The 5th Wave has had a huge buzz building up to it’s release and Penguin has but a lot of money into the marketing.  Going into reading it, I knew a lot of others had enjoyed it, but I didn’t know what it was about other than OMG aliens. This is mostly because it’s incredibly difficult to talk about this book without including spoilers. I’m going to try, but if you want all the surprises and still plan on reading this, I’d steer clear of the review. If you want to know more before you commit to reading it or are trying to get a better understanding of what the story is about or want to figure out the appeal factors, proceed.

I went into this book trying to balance my enthusiasm and my skepticism. I’ll admit this wasn’t a page-turner for me in the beginning. Initially I had trouble connecting with Cassie, but after about 50 pages I started to appreciate the way the details about the extraterrestrial attack were revealed.  I ended up being surprised by how incredibly nuanced and well-developed each character was. Though this story is action-packed, it’s also character-driven.

A lesser skilled writer would not have been able to pull of this kind of structure. There are multiple POV characters: Cassie, and to a lesser extent, Zombie, narrate the story in first person perspective. There are additional sections from the point of view of Sammy, a 5-year-old, in third person, and even some from the first person point of view of the enemy. Unlike the kind of back-and-forth first person we usually see in YA fiction, Yancey doesn’t alternate chapters, but strategically switches based on the plot. These changes add tension and build to a climax in which all characters are finally in the same place at the same time.

Not only does Yancey deftly switch POV without jarring the reader, he seamlessly integrates flashbacks so we can understand what has already happened in the story without slowing down the action. Each character’s thread advances until they converge in a final sequence that leaves the reader breathless.

Though there is plenty of action, what differentiates The 5th Wave from other similar titles is it’s philosophical nature. What does it mean to be human? How do you trust someone? How do you go on if you are the last person on Earth? Readers are invited to contemplate these questions, though the book doesn’t offer easy answers.

This is a book that has lots of crossover appeal for adults, but I appreciated how integral the age of these characters was to the story. Using children to wage war is certainly not something that only aliens think of—in global conflicts, young people are indoctrinated and trained for war. While otherwordly in origin, the themes in The 5th Wave reflect real world conditions of child soldiers.

Though there is violence, the fear is more psychological. Why it’s scary to have someone put a gun in your face, it’s even more frightening to have the enemy map your mind and discover more about you than you know about yourself. Monsters are scary, but they are even scarier when they look just like you, when there is no way to tell if the person in front of you is like you, or one of them.

There is a hint of romance in The 5th Wave, but Yancey isn’t sprinkling it in there because every successful YA novel has to have a bit of sexual tension. It’s critical to the plot, and I’m very interested to see what the ramifications of the romantic feelings are in the rest of the series.

The 5th Wave is bound to appeal to a variety of different types of readers. Even those who don’t usually go for sci-fi thrillers or people who think they are done with post-apocalyptic novels will likely enjoy this complex story that is more about humanity being tested by an alien invasion.

Recommended for fans of:

  • Tomorrow, When the War Began by James Marsden
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Second opinions:

April at Good Books Good Wine: “What I really liked about The 5th Wave is that it does feel literary without sacrificing pace. I love that Yancey shows one can write an intelligent book that ponders deeper questions and not be boring. The 5th Wave is very well-written. It asks questions such as ‘what makes us human?’ and ‘is survival worth it when all hope is lost?’. This is a book that made me think while entertaining me.”

Sarah at Clear Eyes, Full Shelves: “The 5th Wave isn’t just another post-apocalyptic novel. It’s it’s character-driven, it’s complexly-plotted, it’s frightening.”

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8 thoughts on “The Alien Invasion: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

  1. Wonderful review, Molly! You’ve really addressed the many reasons why I need to read this book. Yancey sounds like an incredibly talented writer, and sometimes it’s just so nice to be able to read an ambitious book that really is well done, one whose execution you just know would have fallen flat if written by many other authors. I’m not into scary or horror stories, but I don’t mind ones that are more psychological in nature. Definitely looking forward to this, and I’m glad you yourself found that it did live up to the hype!

  2. I didn’t want to get near spoilers, so I only read the first and last two paragraph. I’ve been hearing so many good things about this book that I’ll have to give it a try. I do like the idea of romance that’s added because it’s critical to the plot instead of just appeasing the YA crowd with romance.

  3. This book! I was so impressed with so many of the same elements you were, especially the way the different POVs made the story so much better. I also thought the allegorical elements (child soliders, paranoia, the idea of otherness, etc) were so well executed and provide a lot of points for discussion. It makes me so happy to see a hyped book really deserving of the attention.

    1. I know! I am RARELY a fan of mulitple POV unless they are all in third person, but it really worked for this story. It was funny how many of the same thoughts I had as others when I went looking for second opinions — I couldn’t find a negative review of this one.

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