Mini-Review: The 5th Wave

Critics often say that it is better to do one thing and do it well than to do many things and do them with mediocrity.  But what about the people who do many things and do them all well?  People like Rick Yancey.

This is my third book/series by Yancey, and I'm really impressed by how he changes voice, vocabulary, and structure to suit the story he is telling.  This is not to say that I dislike formulaic books--they are rather like delicious, empty calories for my brain on days when I just need to unwind.  Yet as I began reading The 5th Wave, I had a bit of trouble reconciling this alien invasion survival story and its direct prose with the ornate and gruesome Monstrumologist books.  However, as the book progresses and the characters begin to open up to each other and to the reader, Yancey's deft touch with language and imagery comes to the fore and stuns you.  I never thought that a book about the end of humanity could be so beautiful.

I cannot say much about this book that has not already been said.  The 5th Wave is narrated by three distinct voices, which are, blessedly, actually distinct.  Cassie been on her own for a while--just her, Bear, and her AK-47.  Cassie tells us, via her journal, about the invasion.  Earth is now in the midst of the Fourth Wave, where aliens either control or have infiltrated other humans, invisibly.  No one can be trusted.  Nowhere is safe.  Cassie dubs these creatures Silencers.  

But Cassie can't stay hidden in the woods forever, even though she would like to.  She promised her little brother that she would come find him, and that promise cannot be broken.  She will bring Bear back to him and save what remains of her family.  So she ventures out, risking her life in the wintry, desolate wastes of Ohio.

There are Silencers in the woods, and one of them tracks Cassie.  But he can't bring himself to kill her.  Why can't he do it?  Why does he care so much about this human girl?  Instead of a headshot, he shoots Cassie in the leg and leaves before knowing if she dies or not.

Meanwhile, kids are being trained to fight back against the aliens.  This is no Independence Day-style hooah rally for the destiny of humanity.  No--this is pitiful and weak.  It's the last of the last-ditch effort to stop Them.

Yancey weaves his narrators together, in and out of the truth, in and out of life and death in a feat of literary legerdemain.  This is a meditation on love, humanity, and the true nature of survival.

Also, this book has reinforced my conviction that I would probably be one of the first to die in some sort of alien/zombie invasion, as I am an awful runner, have never fired a gun, and faint when I see gruesome wounds.


  1. I really enjoyed The 5th Wave and recommend it to teens all the time (usually with great success) although I didn't love it quite enough to convince myself to read the other books in the series. Maybe one day? It's interesting to hear the the style/tone changed a lot here compared to The Monstrumologist series. I have been debating reading those for years but hesitate because life and because I'm not that into horror. I remain unsure now since one of my favorite things about The 5th Wave. Oh the decisions of a reader . . .

    1. Mmm The Monstrumologist series is more ... elaborate. It reminded me a bit of Dan Kraus' Zebulon Finch books.


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