WARNING: The following review contains major plot spoilers for both the book and the movie adaptation of The 5th Wave. If you have not seen the movie or read the book, click away from this article or read at your own risk. Now, on with the review.
The plot of The Fifth Wave was pretty interesting. I mean, it’s hard to go wrong when your book is about aliens that wipe out 99.9% of the human race, and are looking for that .1% to blow off the map. There never was a dull moment from the beginning, where Cassie, the main character, remembers her life before the alien invasion, to the end, where she blows up an alien base to save her little brother. Not only was it captivating, but it was one of the more original stories that I’ve read lately. Usually, in the face of adversary, the characters are defiant and ready to fight. In this book, however, the characters are rightfully afraid of the aliens, and try to avoid most confrontations when they can. This not only adds a sprinkle of realism to the plot, but it also makes the story a better read by making the reader also fear these extraterrestrial enemies.
Now, Maggie will give you her piece. Hold onto your hats and glasses, folks, it’s gonna be a wild ride.
If you have any sense at all you will disregard everything that you have just heard. But Julia was right. It is hard to write a bad book based on the interesting premise.
Somehow Rick Yancey managed to do just that.
Despite the somewhat interesting idea for the novel, it was ruined by a plot that was so sloppy and ill-thought out that it didn’t even make sense. The main problem lies in the main concept of the book– the waves. The main character, Cassie (who I despise but I’ll get to that later) explains throughout the book that the aliens had been taking out the humans in waves of calculated attacks utilizing tsunamis and plagues. The book picks up during the Fifth Wave, where it is suddenly revealed that the aliens had infiltrated the government and were training children to kill off the remaining humans.
In addition to the waves, apparently the aliens had been on earth for years, studying the humans to exploit their weaknesses. But if this was the case then why the heck did they need waves? Why didn’t they just simply let off a nuclear bomb on the human race with their superior technology? The entire Fifth Wave was ridiculous. Why kill the adults in masses but train the children to kill the rest? Not only is it a waste of time, energy, resources and manpower, but it would be more logical to kill the children since they are the ones who could reproduce to continue the human race in the future.
Unfortunately, the failures with this novel do not cease with the plot. Amazingly enough, the plot may be the best thing about The Fifth Wave, in spite of it being horrible.
I’ll admit, the romance in this book isn’t my favorite, but that’s why it’s not a love story; it’s a post-apocalyptic survival story. Big difference. But I digress.
So the romantic subplot boils down to Cassie being saved by a mysterious and conveniently attractive guy named Evan after being shot and nearly bleeding out under a car. They hit it off, but, oh no and wow! It turns out that Evan is not only an alien, but he is also the one who nearly killed her in the first place! Typical men, am I right? But long story short, Cassie lets bygones be bygones and they live happily ever after together…until he supposedly explodes with an alien base camp.
Despite me not necessarily liking the main romance too much, even I must admit that it’s pretty creative. The author made you think that Evan was going to be Cassie’s perfect Knight In Shining Armor, but then he rips the carpet out from under you and makes him more of a wolf in sheep’s clothing more than anything else. In a book where you expect a few plot twists, this was one you don’t expect. It shows that you really can’t trust anyone in a post-alien invasion universe and in general sets a kind of uneasy tone that I personally enjoy. Though Maggie probably disagrees because she disagrees with literally anything I say…
Why, oh why is that every YA fiction writer feels the need to add romance to their crappy books? Then after that they feel the need to add in another pointless love interest (in this case, Ben Parish, Cassie’s high school crush) to create a love triangle. Romance had no place in this book and honestly this particular romance had no place anywhere.
To start off, Evan is a stalker.
Evan watches Cassie for days before actually meeting her, contemplating killing her but ultimately deciding that he is far too “in love” with her to do so. When Cassie gets shot in leg, Evan takes her to a house in the woods (if you think this is creepy just wait), and takes care of her by changing her clothes (seriously!), giving her baths (including washing her hair), bandaging her, and feeding her all while she is totally unconscious. After Cassie wakes up, she almost instantly falls in love with Evan despite being continually lied to by him. The only reason why she left him and went off on her own to save her brother was because she found out the utterly-predictable plot-twist that Evan is an alien. It was hardly a surprise to figure this out, as the author kept repeatedly telling us to trust no one and that Evan was acting strange.
3: Main Characters
I can’t say I liked Cassie too much as a person, but I certainly appreciate her as a character. She has a strong motivation to stay alive and take vengeance on the aliens, since they killed her mom and dad and took her baby brother.
She wasn’t the stoic killing-robot that a lot of protagonists tend to be in books taking place after a world-changing event. She dealt with (whoa) actual human emotions and was deeply disturbed when her own paranoia drove her to kill an innocent man. Her feelings after she killed this man haunted her throughout the book and sent her into a sort of crisis as she grappled with her fear of becoming an emotionless “kill or be killed” animal.
To top it all off, she covered up her inner turmoil with sarcastic remarks and humor, which served as a sort of comic relief so it wasn’t constantly human truths and other heavy concepts thrown in your face. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. But the point remains that the author keeps a solid balance between the inevitable dark stuff and the much needed humor to lighten it up.
I can’t tell which protagonist I hated the most- Cassie or Zombie. Cassie was as clichéd as they come; she was the wallflower girl with the outgoing best friend and had a crush on a boy who never noticed her. Zombie (aka Ben Parish, the boy who Cassie had a crush on before the apocalypse) had zero personality (even less than Cassie) and lived up to his military-given nickname.
Throughout the story, both characters had little-to-no emotion until around page 100, when Cassie seems to remember she has a missing brother that she just has to save. Cassie is not good under pressure and often lets the stress and paranoia get to to her, like when she shot the man with the crucifix.
Zombie, on the other hand, has no remorse for the “aliens” he kills and seems to go through life in a mindless trance. The only character with any actual substance was (surprisingly) Cassie’s five year old brother (who didn’t exactly act like he was five but we can forgive that). Sam, or Nugget, shows a deep love for his sister and the others in his squad even when they dismiss his feelings and seem not to care for him. He has great compassion and refuses to hurt anyone, making him my favorite character.
I’d give The Fifth Wave a solid 7.6/10. It’s pretty good; I’d recommend it to a friend.
Overall I give The Fifth Wave a 2/10 at best because the idea behind the waves was intriguing, in spite of it not making sense. Luckily, the book proves that even if you’re a bad writer, you still have a chance at writing a bestselling book.