Cassie Sullivan’s life is much like anyone else’s: she has a loving family, a hard-core crush on a football player and attends an average high school. All this changes when the Others arrive and the world starts to end. The Others (or aliens) enact 5 waves to wipe humans off the planet. The first three waves succeed in killing half of Earth’s population. After the fourth wave, Cassie and her brother, Sam, are orphans. When the two siblings get separated, Cassie begins a journey with Evan, her rescuer from a dangerous shoot-out, to find her brother. Ben, Cassie’s high school crush, survives the third wave and is taken to Camp Haven where children are trained to fight the Others and where his bitterness toward them is fostered. Both Cassie and Ben will do all they can not only to survive, but to fight.
I read this book for my own personal pleasure and was not required to write a review. Therefore, all comments and opinions are entirely my own.
What if everything had been taken away from you by mysterious creatures? What if you were then given a choice: to hide or to fight?
After watching the 2016 film, which I greatly enjoyed, I decided to try reading the book. Even now, I have mixed feelings toward The Fifth Wave. It was one of the first true YA novels I read, and I read it quickly. Even though I already knew all the spoilers having watched the movie, I was still captivated by Rick Yancey’s writing. It was so suspenseful, I found myself staying up late into the night reading chapter after chapter.
That said, by the end of the book, I was disappointed. Most things I ended up disliking about the book, I liked better in the movie. For one, Cassie. I loved her during the first third of the book. She was compelling as a character as she was an ordinary, scared teenager and yet, she was also so determined to do whatever it took to be reunited with her brother. She had only one thing on her mind: Sam. That is, until she met the handsome hunk, Evan Walker. Can I just say “ugh!”? The rest of the story, when in her point of view, was so wrapped up in how attractive he was to the point that I just couldn’t relate to her anymore. While Cassie and Evan did work together to reach Sam, Cassie’s focus was suddenly altered from her brother to this beautiful man. It didn’t feel realistic in the slightest and even if it was, I hated that they never had any real conversations. Their relationship was completely founded on their attraction to each other and we all know looks aren’t everything and they certainly don’t last very long.
The book trailer by Penguin Teen.
Another thing I couldn’t stand was all the profanity. Granted, some characters cursed more than others, so I usually knew when to brace myself. But I have yet to read a book quite so riddled with curse words. Although the book itself was riveting, I often found myself having to take a break solely because I hated all those words entering my mind. The amount used was hardly necessary and it certainly didn’t add to the story.
Before I make it sound like I didn’t enjoy The Fifth Wave, I’d like to add one thing Rick Yancey did absolutely right: Benjamin Parish. His story in Camp Haven is one of the things from the book that gets a little lost in the movie. Ben, or Zombie, as the Camp Haven kids call him, was one of the most three-dimensional characters I’ve ever read (ironic, since Cassie is ultimately one of the most one-dimensional characters I’ve ever read). His guilt over his sister, his bitterness toward the Others, his kindness toward Nugget, his determination and perseverance in Camp Haven, all together made his story so fascinating. I loved reading in his point of view and watching his character develop. Luckily, the reader is in his perspective for almost half the novel.
And I can’t finish this review without saying that the climax took me completely by surprise. I will admit that this is perhaps the only science fiction book I’ve read and one of the few sci-fi movies I’ve seen. But I was still totally blown away by the reveal of the 5th Wave and that goosebumps-all-over-my-skin moment is probably one of the main reasons I keep thinking about the novel months later.
The movie trailer.
However, at the end of the day, The Fifth Wave, besides your typical “what makes us human” thing, didn’t have a direct or impactful message like The Hunger Games or some other series do. It’s just an entertaining read.
I give The Fifth Wave 3 out of 5 stars. I would give it 4 if it weren’t for Cassie’s disappointing character arc and the amount of profanity. For the latter reason mainly, I would suggest this book for ages 13 and up.