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Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

09-13-13-5thwavecover Lately I have been catching up on my reading. It feels like the majority of the books I’ve read this year have been rereads, so a few weeks ago I set out on a mission to discover new material. One of my favorite new reads is a brand new release (as of May this year) by Rick Yancey, called The 5th Wave.

The premise of the novel is in the title – aliens have invaded the earth in four waves, and the fifth wave is beginning its strike. Through the narration of a sixteen year old girl named Cassie, we learn about the previous waves; an EMP, a global tsunami, a devastating plague, and alien assassins. Cassie has been lucky enough to survive all the previous waves, along with her five year old brother, Sammy, and their father.

The story begins in medias res as Cassie hides alone in the forest; through flashbacks, we learn of the previous waves, of how GIs from a local base take all the children, including Sammy, to “safety” and then murder everyone else, and how Cassie escapes and begins the search for her brother.

Halfway through the novel, there is a shift in narration, and we see through the eyes of two new point-of-view characters – Sammy himself, now called “Nugget,” and a teenage boy called “Zombie.” They are training as child soldiers to help fight against the incoming fifth wave, which they are told is led by “infesteds” – humans who have an alien implanted in them, that only military technology can reveal.

The fifth wave is, of course, what everyone fears. Unfortunately, this is what I think is the novel’s weakest point – I’d already figured out the truth behind the 5th wave when I was just a chapter or so into Zombie’s story. It’s utterly predictable, but the way the novel is set up, it’s supposed to be a big reveal or something. So that definitely fell flat for me. This seems to be the contention of most of the novel’s negative reviews, also. But still, the story is engaging as it chugs along. It kept me reading all day until I finished it!

I think what I liked the most about the novel is that it’s “dirty.” Characters have ambiguous morals. So manyYA books have perfect Mary Sues, or their main characters stay pure and kind throughout the story. The 5th Wave isn’t like that. Shortly after we meet Cassie, she murders another human, because she can’t trust that he IS a human and not an alien. Zombie and even Sammy also kill. Even the love story is marred by Cassie’s instinctive distrust and willingness to kill to protect herself.  In a post-apocalyptic world, characters are going to have to do horrible things in order to survive. I think The 5th Wave sticks to that idea pretty firmly, and I really, really like that.

Another thing I like is that the story can stand alone.  Sometimes I’m driven to a frenzy by the abrupt cliffhanger ending of novels (uh, hello Fragments).  I know The 5th Wave is a planned trilogy, and I’d like to know what happens next, but the ending was resolved enough for me to be happy… for now.

So, basically… you should read this book.  It’s fun, action-packed, and somewhat believeable.  And it’s WAY better than the other two books I’ve reviewed on my blog so far (Twilight and 50 Shades… wow, I need to diversify).

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