Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey


The5thWaveThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013)

Blurb: 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.


I have a confession to make: I love postapocalyptic and/or dystopian novels. Always have done. From Brave New World to We to A Canticle for Liebowitz, to The Stand and The Passage, and on up through Divergent and Gone and The Hunger Games, I love ’em all. Yes, they have certain similarities. Yes, they might indicate a certain cynicism in my attitude toward humanity’s future. But for the most part, these books highlight things I like in my books: sympathetic characters, engaging plots, and a look at the question of what it means to be human.

The 5th Wave does have certain elements that have become clichés in YA dystopian/postapocalyptic fiction: the destruction of society as we know it; the virtual elimination of the adult population; the strong female lead character who’s been taken from her loved ones and has to fight her way back; the hint of romance with a boy she doesn’t necessarily trust. This book, like many others in the genre, is about survivors—what it takes to survive and the toll it takes, both on individuals and on humanity as a whole. But that’s OK, because these are themes I happen to enjoy. A formula isn’t a problem if a writer finds a new and unique way of presenting it, and for me, The 5th Wave is a prime example of that.

By shifting POV between the main characters, Yancey is able to keep the reader unsettled and just a little bit confused about what’s going on—much as the characters themselves must be. There’s a lot of action, but there’s also a lot of waiting, but because the book is character-driven the slow parts don’t bog down the overall pace. The focus is on the characters: on Cassie and her search for her little brother Sammy; on Evan, who may or may not be her savior; and on Ben Parish and his band of fighters.

A lot of reviews on The 5th Wave have focused on the hype around it (it was being called “the next Hunger Games”). I don’t know or care if it’s going to be the next big thing. To me, The 5th Wave was a well-crafted story about the invasion of the planet, and what a kick-ass heroine will do to save her loved ones in the aftermath. I think this is the first in a series, but I enjoyed it as a stand-alone.


My rating: 4 stars


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