The 1st Wave caused all modern technology to crash. The 2nd Wave caused natural disasters that struck most of the world. The 3rd Wave created a disease, killing all but a few. The 4th Wave taught everyone that no one could be trusted.
Cassie knows that the 5th Wave is coming, but she doesn't know how or when it will strike. All she knows is that she has to find her brother, Sammy, who has been taken to a place that is supposed to be safe. Meanwhile, she meets a potential ally, Evan, but she's hesitant to rely on him, after everything that's happened. Can Evan be trusted? Will Cassie be able to rescue Sammy? Most importantly, how can anyone hope to survive in such a messed up world?
Interview with Rick Yancey:
I really don't like sci-fi. Like, at all. So when I came across this on our class reading list, I was not a happy camper. But then, when I actually started reading this book, I made a delightful discovery: this book was impossible to put down. And we all know what that means: it has a compelling storyline, wonderfully constructed characters, and is written in such a way that you just can't leave the book alone. It's what we hope for in all books that we encounter and I'm happy to announce that I found it in this one.
My favorite part of a book is the characters. I firmly believe that you don't have good characters, you don't have a good story. These characters are great: they're flawed, at times, but that's good - it makes them more believable and it helps us to connect with them. There's Cassie, the girl who's discovered that she has more grit and sheer determination than she ever thought. There's her little brother, Sammy, who still tries to see the good in everything, in spite of everything that he's seen. There's Evan, the guy that we want to believe is perfect, even though we know that in all seemingly perfect people, there's always a "but" in there somewhere. And then there's Ben, who's trying to hold on to his humanity but slowly feels himself turning into a zombie as he becomes desensitized to his surroundings. All of these characters show so much tenacity as they experience horrors that could only happen during an alien apocalypse - and you'll find that you just have to find out what happens next.
This story is told from multiple perspectives. At times, it was hard to tell who was telling it at first, but in the case of this book, that actually worked out pretty well as it reflected the chaos of the setting. You'll find that you can't trust anyone and the suspense caused by that is riveting.
One thing that I greatly appreciate is that Yancey resists the temptation to involve a love triangle in his story, as every author since Twilight has seemed to feel the need to do. Although there is potential for one, by the end of the story, I feel that I know conclusively who Cassie's going to end up with and while Yancey could certainly manipulate things, I don't think that he's going to - and I find that to be very refreshing. One thing that I did think was sort of cheesy was when Evan showed Cassie who he really was. It reminded me of Twilight when Edward tells Bella that he's a vampire and came off as very cliche and frankly, kind of nauseating. I don't know how it's going to work out in the film version that's in production and that definitely makes me nervous. Hopefully, they find a way to do it well.
When we discussed this in class, many students compared this book to The Host by Stephanie Meyer. I will admit that there are similarities, but I found them to be very minimal and I think that the differences are far more significant. The biggest difference is that in The Host, the aliens want to create a peaceful co-existence with the humans, basically a utopia, while in The 5th Wave, they want to eliminate all the humans. With such a major plot difference, I disagree with claims that this is copying Meyer's work.
Readers should be aware that there is a LOT of violence, as can probably be expected, as well as vulgar language. Most of the profanity occurs in extremely hostile or tense moments, but it's still pretty strong and readers, especially educators, should definitely be prepared for that. Because of the graphic violence and strong language, I personally would probably refrain from recommending this to anyone younger than high school age, although, since I don't believe in censorship, I certainly wouldn't stop a middle school age patron from reading it. But I do think that this is better suited for older teens.
In a public library setting, I would avoid outright recommending this to readers who are younger than 15, although I would not prevent preteens from reading it. I'm currently recommending this book to just about everyone I meet who expresses an interest in reading. I think that anyone who enjoys young adult literature, sci-fi, or simply seeks a book that will completely ensnare their attention will find that this is a book worth reading.