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Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

5th waveAfter 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.

To be fair to anyone who hasn’t read it yet, I’m going to try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. If there is something that I think might be a bit spoiler-y, it will be clearly marked. If you see that, and you don’t look away, don’t blame me if you are spoiled. Blame your parents – it’s their fault that you don’t follow directions. 

There’s been a lot of hype around this book.I was first sent a copy pretty early on and was told in no uncertain terms to READ THIS.My response? I held off. (I’m contrary like that at times). Not because I didn’t want to read it (I did), or because I was afraid it wouldn’t be a good book (I’ve read Yancey’s other books and really enjoyed them) but because .. well … I was put off by the hype. I even read the first three or four pages, noted the start on my GoodReads account … and walked away.

Then I picked it up one night, with the thought that I would read the first fifty pages and decide if I wanted to continue. This is what happened:

Screen Shot 2013-05-06 at 11.56.21 PMI finished it the next evening. Needless to say, the friends who recommended it to me are gloating openly now, and I’m not calling them on it. It’s the kind of fast-paced and compelling read that will grab teen readers and leave them wanting more. I’d call it the perfect hot read for summer, but I suspect that teens will be reading this book for years to come.

So … what’s is it about? It’s an alien story, true, but it’s also a survival story and a pretty compelling one at that. The end of the world has arrived (in some form – see book trailers below), and the people who are left have to adjust in order to survive and to make some pretty difficult choices. Let’s be clear right here: this is not an easy book to read, and not one that your eight year old should be reading without you. There’s a coming of age aspect to the story as well, as the characters need to figure who they are, post-invasion, in order to decide who they will become. There;s a military boot camp element to this book that is better than any I’ve read in a long time, and that allows you to feel every bump and grunt during training. There is a romance, true, but for me the romance was almost secondary – there is so much tension in this book that the romantic aspects almost lessened that for me. This is also a story about learning to trust again. The world where Cassie and Zombie and Evan and Ringer live is one filled with mistrust and deception. At one point, even the very birds in the sky become deadly to people, and if you can’t trust the birds above, then what or who can you trust?

I loved the pacing of this book, and I know that kids will be drawn into it in an instant and won’t want to leave. The sections with Zombie and Ringer are probably my favourite, if only because they show two individuals who are becoming something more than they could have ever imagined in their pre-invasion life. The world Yancey creates is a perfect science fiction, and he should be commended for that. When I started reading sci-fi lo so many years ago, the biggest fear you could encounter was the fear of isolation – that the rest of the world vanished and you were left behind. Yancey has done a pretty amazing update on that idea, recognizing that for his readers, their greatest fear of isolation is via their electronics, so removing all electronic contact is the first wave of invasion (not a spoiler – check the book trailers below).

Additionally, there are many genres present in the book, as mentioned above. Some have compared this to Ender’s Game and the Passage, others to the Hunger Games and the Host, and those are definitely fair comparison, but this is also something more. Yancey has managed to weave all these elements together into one story, and to make it work. It’s pretty awe-inspiring if you step back and look at it, because the multiple narration and therefore the multiple perspectives allow the reader to see the bigger picture of the story long before any of the characters – and the anticipation of them figuring things out is only heightened by each chapter.

I was less enamoured with the romantic aspects, partly as I mentioned above because I thought they lessened the tension, but also because I’m not sure this romance was entirely necessary. I think that it could have been a part of the story without developing the way that it did, and without some of the deception that we as readers knew about from the beginning but the characters did not. [side note: yes, I understand that I’m being particularly vague and fuzzy here. See red note above – I’m really trying not to spoil anything].

The 5th Wave is the book that had me sitting upright in bed at 1 am, gasping aloud. It’s the book that brought me to the edge of my seat – literally. I kept waiting for that moment when I could sink back and breathe… and it never happened. While this is certainly a book that stands strong on its own, I’m happy that it’s going to be part of a series, and I can’t wait to see where Yancey will take us next.

The 5th Wave was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It is available everywhere for purchase, including your friendly independent bookstore and Indigo. ISBN:  9780399162411, 480 pages.  

The 1st Wave:

The 2nd Wave:

The 3rd Wave:

The 4th Wave:

 

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5 Responses »

  1. LOVED this book! I was a little nervous before I read it as well – any book with crazy hype makes me nervous. But it was such a thrilling read. I agree with you about the romance. It didn’t seem that necessary. But that being said I didn’t hate it either.

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  2. I love seeing all the reviews on this book, it makes me that much more excited to read it, even though I’m a little scared with all the hype around it! I love that you say it’s a book that stands strong on it’s own, even though it is a series. Awesome review!! It will be the next book I read (I hope!).

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    • I think you’ll really like it – there’s such a great set up and Yancey does really wonderful things with the SciFi genre in this book. He really knows how to create horror from everyday reality, and that’s a wonderful thing to read.

      Like

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