I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed when it comes to YA science fiction, in particularly post-apocalyptic and dystopian novels, over the past year or so. There is just so many of them! And they all sound the same! How am I meant to know which one to pick up? I chose The 5th Wave because it had been receiving so much buzz. I was also invited to attend an author event, Rick Yancey interviewed by Lucy Mangan (which I hope to post about soon!), and I thought I had better start reading it.
The 1st Wave: Lights Out
The 2nd Wave: Surf’s Up
The 3th Wave: Pestilence
The 4th Wave: Silencer
What do you do when the enemy looks exactly like you? Are they still human? If so, is it morally right to kill them? Cassie, short for Cassiopeia, the constellation, is struggling with these thoughts every day. She is alone, after the vast majority of the population have been wiped out after an alien invasion, until she comes across an injured man asking for help. Is he human? Or an alien? Luckily, it’s not a predicament we have to deal with, but Cassie does. And she has to start making choices.
The 5th Wave is one of the most impressive young adult science fiction novels I have read so far and although this is partially due to its memorable, distinctive characters, and partially to do with Yancey’s compelling writing style, it’s also to do with the fact that it is quite a hefty book. The 5th Wave consists of 91 chapters in nearly 500 pages. It’s rich with detail and backstory and reasons. It’s easy to say that there has been an alien invasion and then leave it at that, but Rick Yancey goes through each wave and shows us exactly what it was like for Cassie, leaving us in fear of the 5th Wave – and it’s not what you expect.
The 5th Wave is split into sections and told through three points of view – Cassie, her little brother Sammy, and ‘Zombie’, that eventually converge into an explosive end. I loved that each character had a distinctive voice; I could turn to any page and know who is speaking, which is extremely important to me. As a reader, I cannot stand it when I find it difficult to distinguish between characters. Cassie in particular is a brilliant character (and Rick Yancey’s favourite!) because she’s surprising witty and sarcastic the whole way through, making the novel read a little like Zombieland, but a little more serious! (Aliens are no joke). But she can also be deadly serious when necessary:
‘But if I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.’
All three of our survivors are intelligent and contemplative. They constantly question why the alien invasion happened and where they now fit. The 5th Wave is definitely an exciting book and one I could not wait to come back to. I found myself appreciating Rick Yancey’s writing, which is concise – no word is wasted, but then a sentence comes along and leaves you stunned. I still feel overwhelmed by the genre, but I have faith that there are still some stories out there, like The 5th Wave, that will blow us all away. Figuratively. Thankfully. Unfortunately, I am not new to young adult science fiction, but if I were, The 5th Wave would leave me with a new favourite genre.
While writing this review, I finally remembered where I had seen the name Rick Yancey before – he is the author of The Monstrumologist, which had been positively reviewed by Priscilla. I want to read it even more now!