Review: The 5th Wave

I received this book for free from Gifted in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The 5th WaveThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 7, 2013
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 457
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted

The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

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.

First Sentence: “There will be no awakening.”

Anyone who follows my book haul vlogs or my Twitter probably knows how excited I was for this book. The preliminary reviews convinced me that this book and I were destined to have a great love affair, that it would break me emotionally, and end the fairly long streak of lackluster post-apocalytpic/dystopian fiction I’ve been on. Well, The 5th Wave is good, and I can see why everyone’s been loving it, but, perhaps because of the hype, it wasn’t everything I dreamed it would be.

The 5th Wave hooked me right from the start. What really sets this book apart from the bulk of young adult fiction is the air of hopelessness that permeates this post-alien attack vision of Cincinnati. Cassie is a hard heroine, determined to survive for as long as she can, afraid she might be the last actual human alive. The 1st wave of the alien attack was an EMP, knocking out all technology in an instant. The 2nd wave stirred the oceans and killed those on the coast. The 3rd wave was a plague, carried by birds, that killed all but a few naturally immune or able to fight off the infection. The 4th wave consisted of the Silencers, sleeper agent aliens within human bodies. At this point, 7 billion people are dead, and the enemy could be anyone.

Too often, apocalypses in young adult fiction don’t really wreak all that much destruction. Humanity seems to have a serious fighting chance, but Yancey’s world is suitably bleak enough to please me. With the 5th wave feared and anticipated every moment, humanity hardly seems to have a chance in hell of surviving. I love how high the stakes are in this book, and that Yancey doesn’t pull punches. The 5th Wave is dark and intense.

As the novel opens and we meet Cassie, we learn her rules for living, the first of which is to shoot anyone else she meets on sight. She knows that aliens are walking around in human guise, because she saw them murder her father, shortly after her brother, Sammy, and the other children were rescued by soldiers. As such, Cassie trusts no one. Cassie will kill to protect herself, without waiting to find out if the other person is human or alien, because there’s no way to know, and she has to stay alive to find Sammy. It’s not just Cassie, though. Every single surviving person in this world has blood on their hands. No one comes through these experiences innocent, and that is my favorite aspect of the novel.

Yancey’s writing is beautiful too, complex and in no way talking down to the audience. He is even at turns poetic. This would be one of the rare YA books I would recommend to adults who normally turn up their noses at books for teens, because I think the writing and darkness of the subject matter will hold appeal for adult readers as well, even snobby ones.

However, much as I love the concept and the writing itself, Yancey’s use of perspectives didn’t really work for me. I had three main concerns with his use of multiple points of view. First, I had trouble discerning Cassie’s narration from Zombie’s, and was really thrown when the POV switched, even going so far as to wonder if Cassie was a boy all along and I’d missed something. I simply could not tell their voices apart except by seeing where they were or a gender reference.

Second, there are two perspectives used for only one chapter, while the rest of the story bounces between Cassie and Zombie. As a general rule, if a perspective is going to appear once, it’s best not to use it at all, and I think that holds true here. Nothing was learned from those two single-use perspectives that could not have been discovered later with greater impact. The use of one of these even, whether intentionally or no, spoils a plot twist that could have been startling.

Third, the chapter from the perspective of Sammy is in third person, while the rest are in first. Rarely do I approve of this technique in multiple points of view either, however, it can be done to great stylistic effect, intentionally distancing the audience from a particular perspective to represent how closed off that character is. In this case, though, I fail to fathom this authorial decision. For what reason should the reader be distanced from Sammy? This section could have been emotionally resonant, following a scared, confused five-year-old through his experiences in this harsh landscape. Instead, the third person narration alternates between Sammy’s childish thoughts and observations obviously coming from the narrator. Done in first person, this section could have highlighted Yancey’s skill writing perspective, but, alas, this was not done.

Even though Cassie and Zombie were written in first person, I also failed to really connect with them. In Zombie’s case, I suspect this was because he sounded like Cassie to me, so didn’t really become his own person in my head. Cassie, though, I was well-disposed to like, and was bonding to in the beginning. Unfortunately, she stopped acting like the Cassie of the outset and embarked on an instalove romance. To be fair, the romance was not instalove from her side, but she pursued the relationship as well, and the whole thing made me roll my eyes. The one plus I will give the romance in this book is that I’m not entirely sure who Yancey wants Cassie to end up with in the end.

Overall, I liked parts of The 5th Wave. I’m on the fence about reading the sequel. Readers who enjoy dark, action-packed novels will want to pick this one up, as will those who liked The Host or Animorphs, but want something much more intense.

Favorite Quote:

“‘From what you’ve told me about the Silencers, its not logical to rally anywhere.’
‘Or stay anywhere longer than a few days. Keep your numbers small and keep moving.’
‘Until . . . ?’
‘There is no until,’ I snap at him. ‘There’s just unless.'”

23 responses to “Review: The 5th Wave”

  1. Amy says:

    It’s too bad that this one wasn’t as great as you were hoping, but unfortunately hype can do that. I’m glad that you still enjoyed it though. I like multiple POV’s, but I don’t like when there is a random one that is only used once. It seems really unnecessary. Especially with being in a different perspective too. This still sounds really awesome though and I am definitely going to read it at some point.

    • Christina says:

      You definitely should read it, Amy. Even if it wasn’t a 5 for me, it’s still a great read, and so many people have absolutely loved it. You could be one of them!

  2. My review posted today as well:) I liked this book more than you, Christina. Actually, I LOVED this book. I didn’t have the problems with the alternating POV’s like you did. And I really enjoyed Silencer’s brief narration. I loved how plausible this book felt, it scared me to death because yeah, it’s science fiction/ aliens but damn if it doesn’t sound like it could TOTALLY happen.

    I loved the romance part of this book, but like you I wonder just what Yancey has in store.

    And while I did forsee the twist you spoke about to a degree, I was never absolutely certain until it was all laid out for the reader.

    But the writing is what really got me. That broad sweeping, epic type of writing. You’re right that this is rare instance where both adults and teens alike will enjoy this YA book. Have you read any of Yancey’s other books? I’m very curious now after loving this one:)

    Enjoyed your perspective, Christina!

    • Christina says:

      I would have been okay with Silencer’s narration if there had been more if it. I did like that it had a unique cadence, and was easily distinguishable from the two other perspectives, but all by itself, it was weak to me.

      BUT yes, I loved how convincing Yancey made the world.

      That twist though…I saw everything coming.

      He does a great job with the writing, aside from the POV issues I had. I’ve not yet read his others, but I plan to now.

  3. What’s the Bechdel test?

    It’s interesting that you mention that about the POVs. The reviews I’d read so far mentioned that there were multiple POVs, but I don’t think any of them had gone into much detail about them. I would have to agree: rarely does the third and first person actually work together.

    • Christina says:

      The Bechdel Test is whether two named female characters have a conversation that isn’t about men. It’s a feminism thing.

      Yeah, I’d not heard much about the POV thing either, but I’m a big character reader, so POV is a big thing for me.

  4. “Yancey’s world is suitably bleak enough to please me.”

    I’m chuckling. We like it grim.

    And yep, the change in perspectives was so off putting. I liked that we got to see different POVs, but I wish they had been more unique. It was only once I got used to both Cassie and Zombie that I could tell them apart, and that was more to do with the settings. Bah.

    • Christina says:

      If only he’d kill off an MC. That would have gotten a four from me. Even though one was missing at the end, I don’t believe they’re dead for a second. Also, you would cry.

      Yeah, I could tell the POVs apart by context, but I don’t feel like I should have to.

    • I would sob, it’s true. Well, maybe not, but I would be very sad and would probably rage-quit the series. I like to be dramatic!

  5. GillyB says:

    Would just like to say that I LOOOOOVE the inclusion of the Bechdel test. So many books I read nowadays totally fail at this.

  6. I agree with the change in perspective. I found myself having to go back and figure out what was going on. Still, once I got over it I didn’t mind.

    Sorry you didn’t LOOOOVE it, but glad you still liked it well enough 🙂

    • Christina says:

      I’m sorry too, BUT I’m passing this on to GillyB, so hopefully she can LOVE it. 🙂 It was good and I’m happy to have read it, certainly, so THANK YOU.

  7. Lyn Kaye says:

    Thanks for the review! (Can you believe I wasn’t following your blog as well? I feel like a monster).

  8. Stephanie says:

    I’m very curious to read this one, but I’m kind of dreading actually getting through it…you know, me and my long books!

  9. Wonderful review. I got this in the mail this week *happy dance* I am so glad you enjoyed this, and I think your score is the lowest rating I’ve seen. Despite some confusion with the alternating perspectives, this sounds good.

  10. David Allan says:

    I’m going to have to check this out. I never heard of it but am def ordering it for my store. Excited!

  11. Megan K. says:

    Yeah, I’m pretty worried about the multiple perspectives thing, but many people said it worked perfectly. Thanks for the warning, though! The plot seems to be the best asset of the book, and who doesn’t love dark and bleak novels? Can’t wait to get my hands on this!

  12. Amanda says:

    That’s a little frustrating to hear about the use of multiple POVs. I’m almost never a fan of that. And that’s too bad that the characters didn’t seem to be as strong as you would have wished them to be. The story itself, however, sounds amazing and I love YA books that are written in a more sophisticated manner. I still do want to read it, I guess that I just will have to go in with slightly altered expectations.

  13. Oh, that sucks you didn’t love it as much as you hoped! I am excited for this, but I’ll wait for the hype to die before I’ll pick it up

    Great review

  14. I’m sorry to hear that the multiple POV’s didn’t work for you, but I just loooove the sound of the world-building. Dark, almost hopeless and the idea of the destructive waves is great 🙂


  15. I liked the point you make about the different perspectives, because that’s something I never even considered – how the two were kind of unnecessary.

    Also. Cassie was freakin legit.

    AND I agree, Yancey went balls to the walls with his worldbuilding and it was AWESOME.

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