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.
This one needs no introduction. Sometimes there are books that come so highly
hyped recommended that the resulting review can only
go two ways: squeeing OMG 5TH WAVE YOU GUYS!!! Or okay… that was underwhelming.
I hate to disappoint anyone who’s been hoping for snark, but this review is going to be mostly of the first variety. Minus the squeeing because my squeeing is reserved solely for the art of Ms. Laini Taylor, ‘kay?
I admit I read The 5th Wave as a writer-- not just to enjoy the story but to try to dissect it and absorb its genius with my evil writerly mental-tentacles. The 5th Wave is told from several perspectives, alternating not just narrators but 1st and 3rd, limited and even omniscient point of view, and Yancey makes the POV switches work to their full potential. The story starts with Cassie, who’s hiding in the woods alone, leaving only to get water and food at the nearest abandoned gas station. Then she tells the story of her life before the invasion and the first three Waves. Normally, I would have found that’s too much exposition, but oddly, this is the part where I couldn’t put the book down. Cassie, her emotions and her decisions felt so real to me. (Yes, she sits in the school gym after the power goes out and thinks about her crush who doesn’t know she exists. She’s a sixteen-year-old girl, people!) I found her a compelling and believable character.
Then the narration switches to abovementioned crush, Ben Parish, and that’s where it got a little weird for me. Um, what is this Full Metal Jacket weirdness doing in my YA? Also, I kind of saw the twist coming, so much that I’m not even sure it was meant to be a twist. This was by far the most frustrating aspect of the book for me. Highlight to see spoilers: if the aliens really are so advanced that they’ve Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence and don’t even need bodies… why the spaceship? Why the weapons? Hell, why everything? And if they’re so good at wiping out humanity, why did they have to go about it in such an unnecessarily complicated, convoluted way? It just seemed a bit far-fetched to me.
Then the narration goes back to Cassie and Evan Walker, the guy who “saved” her when she was shot and about to freeze to death in an abandoned car. I put “saved” in quotes because (I’m marking this as spoilers but really it’s so obvious from the first scene he’s in that it’s not necessary) he was the one who shot her in the first place—he’s one of Them and his job is to kill as many humans as possible. But you see, when he glimpsed Cassie he got in touch with his inner human again. *eyeroll*. But that’s not all. Thankfully, Cassie figures him out soon enough. What does she do? Put a bullet in his head while he’s sleeping? Sneak away and run as fast as she can while he’s out? I dunno… call him out on exterminating 97% of her race? Something? No. She kisses him, cuddles with him, gazes into his chocolate eyes and admires his soft hands. It felt like a concession to the requisite YA forbidden romance with the scary-but-hot Other who keeps telling you how he’s going to kill you in between makeout sessions. Seriously, Evan was the creepiest love interest since That One. You know which one I mean.
Thankfully, then Cassie finally decides to go rescue her brother from the aliens, and the action picks up again. The last fifty pages are breakneck-fast paced and gripping, and that’s when all the seemingly scattered elements of the book converge for the conclusion.
Overall, my favorite part of the book was the thorough world-building. The 5th Wave properly addressed all of its own implications. Sadly, I find this rare since the dystopian-sci-fi craze took off and building worlds that make a shred of sense became optional.
So basically: if you’re reading it as a reader, you’re in for a riveting story that will keep you in the edge of your seat for the entire 450+ pages (that felt like 150 to me!) And if you’re reading it as a writer (or aspiring writer) there’s so much to learn from it! The author really masters the craft of writing and storytelling, and it shows.