July 19, 2013

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Published: 2013, Putnam Juvenile
Series: The 5th Wave, #1
Genre: Young Adult Post-apocalyptic
Source: Library book
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But if I'm it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I'm going to let the story end this way. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity's last war, then I am the battlefield. 

Earth and life as we know it has been completely altered with the arrival of alien spaceships and their subsequent attacks on humanity in the past few weeks. The first wave was an electromagnetic pulse that destroyed basically everything that is reliant upon electricity. The second wave was a tsunami that eliminated all life within many, many miles of any coastline. The third wave was a plague carried by birds that wiped out the vast majority of humans still surviving. The fourth wave was referred to as silencers, or sleeper alien agents down on Earth. The impending fifth wave is anyone's guess (or worst nightmare).

This is the current reality for all humans (fortunate enough to be) still surviving. Against this bleak world, Cassie barely scrapes by, sleeping in the woods, foraging for food and water at dusk, trusting no one. The only thing that keeps her going is her determination to save her little brother Sam, who, along with other children in their refugee camp, was taken away on a bus by strange military men while the adults and older children were left to die. It was luck that allowed Cassie to get away while her father was killed. Luck that she didn't succumb to the avian disease that her mother did. Now Sam is the only family Cassie has left, and she made a promise to Sam that she'd find him - a promise that she intends to keep. Opposed to Cassie, Zombie finds himself training as a child soldier as part of an organized resistance movement. His true identity, as well as all of the other soldiers, is kept hidden. They're told that they're going to fight the alien invaders, but not much more than that.

I think it's best if I start with the obvious here: The 5th Wave has generated a lot of...waves (sorry) in the months leading up to its publication. Many, many people seem to have thought all the hype was totally justified. Many, but not all. After finishing this book and reflecting on it for a while, I definitely found myself in the first camp. I really, really liked it. Do I think it's going to be among my favorite reads for the year? Probably not. But I can't deny how exciting and interesting it was to read.

Part of the reason I really enjoyed this book so much is that everything felt new and fresh to me, since I am not in the habit of reading many post-apocalyptic books, or even those that take place in the middle of an apocalypse. It's just not a subgenre that interests me much. I guess I must credit the marketing and extreme hype that went into the production of this book for making me even pick this up. That, and the fact that Yancey already has a solid fan base for his other series, The Monstrumologist (which I fully intend on reading at some point). My point for all of this is, because I'm not as familiar with these kinds of stories, I didn't find The 5th Wave derivative or uninteresting. Some of the revelations became obvious to me before the characters understood it, but their revelations, when they finally reached them, were no less chilling. The story worked for me as the reader, and Yancey's strong writing style made me enjoy it even more. 

It was an interesting choice to have the novel start after the first four waves had already occurred, leaving Cassie's flashbacks to bring readers up to speed on the current situation on Earth. Interesting especially in light of the fact that not much happens in the first section. Yancey could have started his novel with the actual waves, I suppose, or even with events leading up to them. But I like the sense that readers are thrown headfirst into a world where humanity has already lost, more or less. A world where over seven billion humans are already dead, and the survivors have no idea how to survive anymore.

Although the official synopsis doesn't mention any characters other than Cassie, The 5th Wave is also narrated by Zombie, with two short sections narrated by Silencer and Nugget. I think that Silencer and Nugget's parts could have been left out, but I actually liked the focus on both Cassie and Zombie's situations, since they brought to light two very different experiences that humans are enduring after the fourth wave (even if I did have trouble distinguishing their actual voices). Once their storylines converged, I'll admit that the dual points of view felt a little unnecessary. But up until then, I found myself equally invested in the story of each protagonist. Neither Cassie nor Zombie presents a shining example of how humans should behave in this dire situation, as they make mistakes constantly and are unable to differentiate between allies and enemies. But both are resourceful in their own ways and easy to root for.

The strongest part of The 5th Wave is actually in its lack of explicit details. Lots of details about the first four waves of the invasion and the current situation on Earth are rather vague, but appropriately so. Cassie and Zombie don't really understand all that is happening, and, as they are the main narrators, why should readers expect to know anything more than they do? A huge focus of the book is on humanity's isolation and demise. Humans are scattered and without a strong leadership or purpose. As Cassie and other survivors come to realize, Earth is being rid of humans in a way that doesn't destroy the planet itself. And due to the silencers, humans can no longer trust even each other. It's a bleak and depressing world that Yancey envisions in this novel, and one in which the darkness both sets the mood and serves a greater purpose.

My main gripe is the romance that develops. I found myself interested in the two parties involved and wanted to learn more about them as individuals. I even liked that their relationship brought new complications to all assumed/implied knowledge. But it was a bit insta-love, and I think the same questions could have been brought forth through a friendship, rather than a relationship. I'll let this go for now, however, and wait to see where Yancey goes with it in future installments.

Overall, I found The 5th Wave to be an enjoyable read. Well-written and imaginative, I thought it stood up to the hype and am looking forward to continuing with this series.

Rating: 4 stars
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Amanda. For me, Yancey's writing style simply didn't work and I was unconcerned about the characters and couldn't finish the book. I did go back and read The Monstrumologist, though, which I really enjoyed. Anyway, great review!

    1. Once again, it's so interesting how opinions on books can vary so drastically - I'm also surprised here since usually we have similar tastes. *shrugs* Oh well. It worked for me, which made me happy. I'm glad you enjoyed his other books, though, as I will have to give them a try soon!

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed The 5th Wave! I liked the book okay, but I just wasn't a big fan and I don't know if I will read the second one. The ending was frustrating and I believe set it up for a love triangle, which I am kind of sick of.

    Kay @ It's a Book Life

    1. Yeah, I'm not sure what was going on at the end. If anything, though, I think it'll be more of a love quadrangle. Hopefully Yancey doesn't go there, though! I guess we'll all have to wait and see how it continues.

  3. I have the feeling that I would like this one, but probably not the romance either. It just doesn't seem like the type of book that really NEEDS romance. I've seen lots of good, bad, and some mixed reviews on this one. I'm content to not read it until the hype dies down so I can have fresh eyes without being influenced by all I've heard, but I'm really glad it was a good read for you, Amanda!

    Have a wonderful day!

    1. Oh, certainly not. Hence one of my biggest pet peeves (if you're writing dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories, why is romance becoming a central theme?? Fortunately it's not a central-central theme here.) And that's a good idea - that's generally what I do but haha I gave in to the pressure here. I hope you end up liking it as well, Molli!

  4. Cool, glad you felt this one was deserving of the hype because it's sucky when you fall into the camp that feels the opposite and it ends up being a complete let down. It's so nice that you've finally gotten a chance to see Rick Yancey's genius for yourself! I also really like that certain details were left vague. It really ramped up the paranoia and suspense. I do kind of agree with you about the romance though... maybe not necessary. Also, kind of eyeroll-inducing in parts. But hopefully Rick Yancey will develop it more in later instalments. Really excellent and thoughtful review, Amanda!!

    1. Thank you so much, Aylee! Yes, I really dislike being the odd one out, but I think it's important sometimes to have people who disagree and view things differently (but I like conforming here haha). I can't wait to read his Monstrumologist series! I know you're a big fan of that. :)

  5. I agree with you on the excitement of the novel, and also with all of your comments on what could have been better. The points of view were not accomplishing what Yancey probably wanted them to, and the romance was like a stereotypical paranormal romance, which I really was not expecting.

    Glad you got to enjoy it, though!

    1. Thanks, Christina! So am I! I thought it was pretty good - although I think it definitely could have flopped in the hands of a less skilled author.

  6. I loved this one, Amanda. So glad to see you enjoyed it as well. I really appreciated your points on narration and how as a reader we were only privy to the knowledge of our narrators. I'm glad the author decided to write it that way because I'm not a fan of huge info dumps. They distract me from the plot and slow the pace down. Lovely and well thought out review! :)

    1. Thank you, Rachel! I think info dumps have their appropriate place (I'm all over them in high fantasies), but yeah here I liked the way things were revealed. It was deliberately crafted and all.

  7. Oh, I love this review:) I think I loved The 5th Wave more than you, Amanda, but I totally appreciate your points of contention. Unlike you I really liked Silencer's narration. Brief as it was it sure was cool to FINALLY get the pov of one of the aliens. And ditto for Nugget's. His was really hard for me to read, but I think it helped demonstrate just how bad things have gotten, recruiting children soldiers. And speaking of that I love this line in your review:

    'Yancey could have started his novel with the actual waves, I suppose, or even with events leading up to them. But I like the sense that readers are thrown headfirst into a world where humanity has already lost, more or less.'

    YES. That's a great point, and it totally felt that way as I was reading. It was a dismal, bleak world that Yancey has thrust us into. And gosh, SCARILY realistic. I mean I felt like all that stuff could TOTALLY happen that way, EMP's and avain viruses, and such.? Freaked me out a bit. But I do love that by book's end, the resistance and revolution that will come is revving up, it made me feel hopeful, as well as anxious, about Cassie and Zombie, and the remaining human's future.

    Oh, and I admit to liking the romance. Call me a sap, but it totally worked for me:)

    1. It was cool to get Silencer's POV I agree, but for me cool wasn't the same thing as necessary, especially in a book that's already this lengthy. Personal preference, I suppose.
      Ugh I don't want to think about the reallness of the possibilities Yancey presented. Just...I can't. Too freaky. But yes! I liked the hints of hope and resistance it ended with for sure.
      and haha some people were dead set against this romance. It was all right for me, but I'm going to take my usual stance: not necessary, especially with so much else that Yancey could focus on.
      Thanks, Heather!

  8. I felt a bit let down by it, sadly, but it was still good! Just not quite as good as the hype led me to believe.

    I liked how Cassie mentions feminine hygiene products near the start, since books often pretend basic necessities don't exist so it was an interesting touch. The justified vagueness you brought up is a fair point.

    I also found the voices hard to differentiate, although I did like Nugget being there. I guess I just found his experiences interesting.

    The romance REALLY annoyed me.


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