Occasionally I come across a book that everyone says is worth reading. It’s amazing, they say. You’ll like it. So well written. Great plot. Epic characters. One such book is The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. Read it, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. So I did.
And now I have serious trust issues.
I don’t usually bash books, and I’m not about to start now. However, I thought it’d be a good idea to start this post out with the understanding that I didn’t enjoy this book. That doesn’t mean my review will be horribly biased, and it doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy the book, it just means that Hannah thought it sucked, so do with that what you will. Now, with that explained, here’s the storyline:
The Others invaded in waves. The first wave took out all technology, electronics, and transportation, killing half a million people. The second wave wiped out roughly 40% of Earth’s population with massive tsunamis. The third wave unleashed a deadly virus that killed almost everyone. The fourth wave? The Others began to use people as hosts, murdering all they came into contact with. This fourth wave established a single rule: Trust no one.
Cassie has no qualms following this rule. After all, the Others killed her father and her mother. They stole her little brother Sammy. And with no way of knowing who is human and who is Other, Cassie reacts to everyone in the same way: Do not trust. Do not drop your guard. If someone seems off, shoot them.
A simple philosophy, really. It’s kept her alive. But when Evan Walker forces his way into her life, keeping her safe and working to help her save her brother, she’s not sure if she should maintain that philosophy. Because something is definitely off with Evan Walker. But if she loses the ability to trust the boy who saved her, the boy who loves her, then doesn’t that mean losing the ability to be human? Fighting to find and save her brother before the 5th wave causes his destruction, Cassie must ask herself a question: If she loses her humaneness in order to survive, then how is she any different than the Others?
It’s a pretty cool concept at first glance. The idea of invasions happening in waves and the Others turning humans against each other.
But, when you look at it a little more closely, you realize something: This book is just like all the other alien books and movies. The aliens come to exterminated humans and take over the planet as their own. And of course they have to kill all the humans to do so. Add in some romance and the “What is it that makes us human?” question and viola! You have a decent alien invasion novel.
Not that there’s anything wrong with a slightly cliché storyline, especially since Yancey is actually a pretty good writer. He told the story from the POV of several different characters: Cassie, Evan Walker, Ben Parish (the guy Cassie had a crush on before the invasion), and Sammy. They each had something that drove them forward and they each had a lot of questions.
Unfortunately, each character was almost identical to the other. They each had screwed up in similar ways (namely, abandoning a family member and killing people who didn’t need to die). They all were fighting to save somebody they loved to make up for these mistakes. And they all asked the exact same questions: Why is this happening? How do I keep my humanity? And, more importantly, do I like him/her? Does he/she like me?
Because of this, many scenes felt extremely repetitive. Which is bad, because the book was 450 pages. Long and repetitive don’t go together very well.
Also, many of the characters were just a teeny bit annoying and nonsensical. Okay, maybe more than a teeny bit.
Cassie is in a life threatening position, and yet she is constantly thinking about which guy she likes. She’s describes herself as “just average,” and yet manages to stay alive long after most adults (some of them ex-military) are killed off. She also somehow knows how to use an M16 without training. How lucky.
However, I’ll give her points for tenacity. She may be a bit mean and thick at points, but she has a lot of fight in her and went through some rough times. Unfortunately, determination and “my Mom and Dad are dead” don’t give her personality. Boo-hoo. Everybody’s got dead people. That doesn’t automatically give a character depth.
Sorry. Not really.
Oh, and Evan Walker is a stalker. He reads Cassie’s diary, watches her while she sleeps, and follows her around. As far as creepers go, he surpasses Anakin Sywalker and even gives Edward Cullen a run for his money. Not a good thing. And yet Cassie still falls for him. Ew.
Ben Parish doesn’t have much of a character and neither does Sammy. The Others, despite being supposedly mega-intelligent, do some pretty odd things. If they’re bodiless creatures that can easily possess humans, then wouldn’t it make more sense to just use people as hosts? It would be a heck of a lot easier than trying to eradicate the entire human race. The “it would be beneath them” argument felt a bit contrived.
Also, why would the Others think it was a good idea militarizing 7-year-olds? And why in the heck are these 7-year-olds actually able to act like war-hardened soldiers?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that The 5th Wave had a ton of plot holes, was too long, too repetitive, and had too many characters that were difficult to get behind.
That being said, the writing style was good and the symbolism was actually quite brilliant at times. Yancey also brings up some pretty interesting moral questions. It was just a bummer that the actions of his characters never really worked to answer any of those questions in a satisfactory manner.
So should you read this book? I honestly can’t recommend it. However, I know a lot of other people who enjoyed it, so maybe you will too. But, with so many great books out there, I can’t find an argument as to why you should spend time on this one and not others (The Knife of Never Letting Go, perhaps?).
Have you read The 5th Wave? Are you planning on seeing the movie? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Hannah Heath - bookworm and author