The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Publisher:G. P. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, YA
Length: Full Length (457 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Thistledown

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.

What would happen if aliens did come to earth?

Some books stick with you and keep you up nights. The 5th Wave did both. In this multi-POV teen novel you experience what it is like when Cassie, the main character suffers as aliens make their presence known on earth. Other characters pop in as the black chapter breaks appear. There are several waves of disasters that plague mankind, designed to wipe us off the face of the earth.  It was relentless and in The 5th Wave, it sure doesn’t go well for the human race.

When the book begins, we meet Cassie, a teenager, who is on her own in a post-apocalyptic world. Almost everyone has been killed in the first four waves (silence, disease, flooding and more) and Cassie begins to wonder if she is the last human being left on earth. She wanders, learns how to survive and becomes a force to be reckoned with. It would be just too easy if that was all to the story. We journey with her as she retells the beginning of the end in flashbacks. What happened when the lights went out, what happened to her family as an Ebola type virus swept through the population, the military gathering of children and the murder of her father. It is a visceral journey told as only Rick Yancy can. Beautiful. Tragic. Poignant. In the present someone is hunting Cassie. It is one of the aliens that she calls a silencer. After he corners her and shoots her in the leg, she has to decide if she is going to live or die. One choice and it would all be over. She promised her brother she would come for him and one wrong move could very well end everything.
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As the book develops, you also meet Ben. He is a young man that went to Cassie’s school but has now been captured with the other kids and brought to a military base for what they believe is training against the alien forces that have infiltrated humanity. That is the catch. They look just like we do and have been here forever. Sneaking inside of our mothers as they slept, implanting themselves in the growing babies held within, their consciousness awakened as the invasion hit. Well, most of them. For some, they have been plotting against humanity from the start, waiting for the time to strike. At the compound, Ben has to decide to give in to his despair and become a force to end the suffering of humanity or succumb to his own inner demons. Who is real? Who is not? Military regiment becomes the new religion and survival is for the fittest. The fact that they are children hardly matters at all. There are some interesting questions posed by this part of the book. Who are these people in charge of the base? How did they get power back up when everything else is gone? What are the chips they are inserting into each child and what is this Wonderland mind mapping system? Red or green, who is alien and who is human? It is a question that kept me turning the pages.

Cassie’s brother Sam is also a character that appears once or twice in narratives. Renamed Nugget after being brought to the military camp where Ben is stationed, he learns quickly what his new reality has become and it is terrifying. He begins to grow up. These journeys come together as Cassie is rescued by Evan, begins to fall for him and continues her search for her brother. Ben, now renamed Zombie, grows in his strength as he helps himself and others and Nugget tries to keep up with it all.

Having a book with multiple POV’s makes the story more inclusive. In this case, you get multiple sides of the alien invasion, all of which are riveting. The descriptive elements of the book are so there I literally felt like I was falling into the story. The gut clenching moments when you try to figure you who is friend or foe, the fluttering sweetness of first love, the bitterness of betrayal and the sheer determination of the human race against insurmountable odds are all themes here. I have read the first book in Yancey’s Monstrumologist series and knew firsthand the level of writing this author has to offer and even still, this book blew me away. It is gripping, suspenseful, heart wrenching and beautiful all at the same time and I fell in love on the first page.

The next time I am looking for an alien novel, this will be the one I pick up again. To be honest, l didn’t read it at first because it was about aliens, but noticing it was Rick Yancey’s work made me rethink my decision. This is not a hokey body snatcher novel. Yes, it has some elements of that, but the way it is handled, to me, was much better than any other alien invasion scenario I have ever read. That is the scary part. He makes it seem so real. Every layer, every character quirk that makes the person pop off the page, every plot twist all points to a story that had me creeping off into corners at every opportunity to read this remarkable book. I just hope there is going to be another one.

One other thing that struck me about this book was the end note by Yancey. While he was writing the book, he lost his writing dog and companion Casey. As a reader, that struck me, because all the through the book there is loss after loss and the grim reality of what life has become in the after. Yancey was going through it himself as he was writing and that got to me.

The 5th Wave was unforgettable. It is a journey. It is the unrelenting force of love and the unstoppable essence of humanity.

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