Book Review: The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave
Hardcover | Paperback | Kindle Edition
Written by Rick Yancey
Penguin Books/Putnam
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Cover Price: $18.99

What would be the one thing that, if taken away from the human race, would leave it even more devastated than if life itself had been all but obliterated? It’s humanity. The 5th Wave is coming, and through the introspective voiced narratives of a few, author Rick Yancey delivers a powerful look at the few willing to make a stand when almost all hope is lost.

After the alien invasion’s first wave, when technology stopped working, Cassie and her family, along with the rest of the world, couldn’t help but wonder where the Others had come from””or what it was they desired; the second wave left millions of people across the planet dead due to a “natural” calamity; the third wave brought sickness and death, taking the lives of Cassie’s mother and billions of others; the fourth wave made it impossible to trust any survivors, with the realization that any person left could in actuality be one of the Others in human form.

Now, Cassie wanders alone in search of her five year old brother, Sammy, who was last seen being escorted away by the military on a yellow school bus filled with other children. Cassie promised she would come for him; however, when Cassie meets Evan, she must make a terrifying choice: trust and be helped or lose what little is left of her humanity that the Others haven’t already taken away. To top it off, unbeknownst to her, Cassie’s journey begins to intertwine with someone else’s from her past in an unexpected way.

The military is recruiting. They’ve begun to train children and teenagers as Earth’s last line of defense, as the young have become the future of the desperate planet. Zombie quickly moves up the ranks to become squad leader, fully succumbing to the ideals of his mentors and superior ranking officers. It isn’t until out on his first mission, leading his own squad, that Zombie begins to question the military’s sincerity and uncover what could be a rather sinister plan to bring about the fifth wave””driving the world closer to total annihilation and alien assimilation.

Any pre-conceived notions I had developed prior to reading The 5th Wave were blown away by its completion. I had read the advance praise on the back cover and thought, “There’s no way this teen novel can be that good”””boy, was I wrong. This book has enough honesty and depth to keep you thinking about the material long after you’ve bookmarked or finished it. Part Ender’s Game, part Hunger Games, and part something else entirely (though not necessarily a game), this is a philosophical suspense thriller that surely has the potential to become “the next big thing.” I marveled at Yancey’s ability to write from the perspective of both a female and male teenager, as well as a child for a brief time. I was overwhelmed and, at times, distraught over the emotions and thought processes of these kids””because that’s what they are: kids having to grow up too quickly in order to try to cope with and grasp the devastation they’ve witnessed.

We’ve seen various interpretations of how an alien invasion might play out through movies and books, but The 5th Wave offers a fresh outlook””and it is frightening. How does someone overcome a world-wide catastrophe on this scale? With faith waning, how does one continue on? It will take understanding, determination, and that last sliver of hope to carry on. In the words of Cassie herself, “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, not staying, 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.”

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