Book Reviews 2014 · Post-Apocalyptic Books · Sci-Fi Books · Young Adult Book Reviews

‘The 5th Wave’ by Rick Yancey

The 1st Wave took out half a million people

The 2nd Wave put that number to shame

The 3rd Wave lasted a little longer, twelve weeks… four billion dead

In the 4th Wave, you can’t trust that people are still people.

And the 5th Wave? No one knows. But it’s coming.

5 Stars

Wow. I have just finished reading this book and I am sat at my desk thinking ‘wow, that could honestly be one of the best books I have read in a while’. I have recently started putting tabs in all of the books that I read, to highlight four categories that I would want to flick to at a later date: quotes, character, scenes and talking points. ‘The 5th Wave’ is the first book that I have tabbed that earned at least one tab of every colour, and that isn’t all. On average, I place between five and 10 tabs in a book… This book contains 24. That is 24 particularly memorable or stand-out quotes, scenes, character moments or talking points. Considering how anything has to be particularly good to earn my complete approval, 24 is colossal.

All I knew about ‘The 5th Wave’ when I went in was that it follows a girl called Cassie in an alien invasion, and that Cassie ends up in a love triangle. Given that I usually hate both romantic focus and female protagonists, it was not looking promising, and I only read this after finding it for 50p in a charity shop (I seem to mention charity shop books a lot in these reviews… Clearly it’s where I buy all of my books!). Even then, it was still sitting on my shelf for weeks, and it took me pulling it from my TBR jar to even contemplate starting it. I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t put off by what I had heard. Even though it was mainly glowing reviews, the talk of romance had really bugged me. In the end, I am so glad that I read this book, as none of my concerns were really met.

It took me slightly longer than I would have liked to get through this book; it took four days of casual reading to reach the end. This is testament to how preoccupied I have been, and is nothing to do with the book. I by no means had to force my way through it like I have had to do with some other books recently, and I enjoyed every page of it. The pacing was good – not too fast but things happened suddenly when you did not expect them – and the changing between the perspectives of Cassie, Ben, Evan and even Sammy meant that there was enough depth to all of the characters and their respective stories and situations. It all felt very thorough, which is a relief given that the book has 460-odd pages, and I did not get lost among all of the confusion surrounding the unclear plot. Seeing certain things from different perspectives also helped hammer home the facts of the situation whilst still leaving both the reader and some of the characters in the dark as to how the book will reach its climax.

Cassie was a strong female lead character (I know, it’s a miracle!). I have become accustomed to female protagonists being either stupid, whiny, conceited or weak, especially without men around them to help. This view of course angered me, but I had almost accepted that I should not get my hopes up when reading a book with a female protagonist, as I can never relate to them or their choices. Cassie was different. First of all, she asked the question ‘why me?’ but ultimately accepted her fate and tried to power through. We all ask that question at some points in our lives, and have been guilty of wondering why things happen to us instead of those around us. I feel that most female protagonists that I can think of fitted into one of two extremities, the first being that they willingly accept their situation as if they were some kind of martyr who would lie down and take any situation thrown at them, and the second being the ones who in the face of adversity roll into a ball and cry, asking ‘why?’ so many times that we are fed up of hearing the word. Cassie fell into the middle, which was especially surprising as the book is in first person present tense, and that is when things tend to border on whiny. Cassie also does not rely on a man. Yes, the men in the book do both save her life at some point, but that is not the point that I am trying to get across. Beyond acts to save the person’s life, there are far too many cases when a fictional woman is literally incapable of doing anything without a man to see her through. Cassie does not need Ben or Evan to get to where she needs to be. In fact, she actually goes on the most dangerous of missions without Evan, despite his protests to go instead of her. I just get the impression that many female characters would have let Evan be the brave volunteer and go without her, but Cassie proves that she can take control of a situation.

The supporting characters were very strong on the whole. I was slightly in love with Ben. He achieved something that never happens with me; he made me change my mind. When we first hear Cassie gushing about how perfect the drop-dead-gorgeous-but-unfortunately-literally-dead Ben Parish is, I established two things: firstly, that Ben was not dead and secondly, that I would absolutely hate him once he made his inevitable appearance. A male character that age and as attractive and popular as Cassie made him sound is 99% of the time an absolute git: arrogant, self-centred and aware of their good looks. Now, Ben clearly was aware of his good looks and his popularity, but the fact that he does acknowledge it rather than being the typical attractive-guy-who-doesn’t-know-it actually made me really fond of him. From the off, it was clear that he was not arrogant or self-centred at all. He is first seen with his friend Chris, suffering the 3rd Wave plague, which starts us off with a sympathetic view. I was certain that it would go downhill, but it did not. Even when Squadron Leader, in control of the team of child soldiers, he never acts like they are less than him, because in his eyes they are not. He mentions his good looks but never boasts. And to top it all off, he is so lovely to little Nugget that at points I nearly cried. As with Cassie, he was a very middle-ground character; he was neither unbearably cocky nor perfectly sweet. I think that is ultimately the reason that I liked the characters so much, they were all flawed. They were all real. Evan was a no-go zone from the start in my eyes. Overall, I think that I found him far too creepy and possessive, and of course he has not been 100% honest. I’m not sure why Cassie actually sticks with him. If I were her, I would have run a mile at the first opportunity. I just thought that his main characteristics were very unsettling. Saying this, he was by no means a badly created character. He stood up as a realistic person. The problem is, I really do not like the kind of person he was like. I did love Ringer, Dumbo, Oompa, Teacup and Poundcake (just a quick note: they reminded me so much of Chubs and Zu from ‘The Darkest Minds’ by Alexandra Bracken, with Ben being Liam). Sammy was absolutely adorable, and yet actually had character development of his own, and did not just serve the purpose of ‘cute younger brother’. All in all, every single one of Yancey’s characters seemed believable to me, and believable characters make a book so much easier to read.

The romance was my main problem, although it was a billion times better than I anticipated it to be. I found the entire romance around Evan to be incredibly forced and slightly creepy, whereas Ben was a genuinely better person who she could have a lot of chemistry with if she wasn’t idolising him. I have a pretty set way for how I want this situation to go, although in this instance I know that it will not go this way, which is a shame, as Evan is really, really possessive and creepy. Saying that, I actually paid very little time to the romance, not just because I never get into it but because the plot was actually too compelling that I would rather put my focus there than on who Cassie fancied. This proves how good the plot is that I was willing to overlook the romance and still loved the book.

Yancey’s writing was very good. I am a sucker for brilliant quotes (my bedroom wall is covered in them) so I was delighted to find many beautifully written and deep passages (also, the ‘Merchant of Venice’ line in there delighted me). Everything was so easy to get your teeth into; Yancey manages to weave his story so brilliantly that you cannot help but be dragged in. The way in which he withholds information is genius: we get many subtle clues along with some red herrings, and I love the times when we have conflicting ideas from two characters’ points of view.

I head just before reading this that it would be made into a film starring Chloe Grace Moretz, and when reading it I could see why. I think that the story will translate brilliantly to screen, and I cannot wait to see it (and this will be one that I insist on seeing in cinemas, so that says a lot).

If I was asked to recommend a sci-fi book, this would definitely be one of my first choices. It has not overtaken ‘I Am Number Four’ as my favourite alien book, but it did win a place on my favourites list with great ease, and I would like to say to anyone who has not read it yet that it is really worth a go. I’m now going to be picking up ‘The Infinite Sea’ after Christmas, so that I can read on. I have heard some mixed things about that instalment, so fingers crossed that it is just as good.

Twitter @emmathereader




2 thoughts on “‘The 5th Wave’ by Rick Yancey

  1. I loved the 5th Wave. I love the non-traditional take on an alien invasion. That right there made this book scary, because it was so ‘makes sense’ish. I can’t get past chapter 4 on I am Number Four. Hmph.

    The ‘love’ triangle was a little squidgy, but I actually never read it as such (am I the only one?). I mean, its not like Ben was interested in her. He barely knew she existed. It wasn’t like she had realistic feelings for Ben, either, other than just crushing hard on someone she knew barely knew she existed. So at the end when she acknowledges the other girl with some jealousy, I just kind of shrugged it off.

    Evan was creepy, though. Eugh.


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