The 5th Wave
(G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)
Author: Rick Yancey
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Reader Appeal: Teens & Tweens
What is it with young adult books and dystopian-post-apocalyptic stories? The Giver, The Hunger Games, Ender's Game, Divergent, Maze Runner, and now The 5th Wave. If I was a younger person, and these were my options, I think I would start feeling hopeless about the future. Or, that my generation was the only generation smart enough to survive.
Anywho, The 5th Wave does take a slightly different turn from the others, in that this time the world has not collapsed because of human wars or careless use of the planet, but by an alien invasion. And these aliens are not E.T. Before the story even begins, on the index page, there is a quote by Stephen Hawking, "If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans." This basically sets the tone for the book.
Stories being told from varying points of view is kind of popular right now, and The 5th Wave is one of these books. Cassie Sullivan is 16 and a survivor of the first 4 waves of the alien invasion, which has killed off most of the human population. Those who are left are fearful of each other, as well as "The Others." While no one has actually seen anything roaming the earth that looks alien, it's apparent The Others, are preying on Earth by the mother ship hovering over Ohio. Like the rest, Cassie trusts no one. So when Evan Walker saves her life and nurses her back to health, Cassie finds herself in turmoil. How to trust again, and should she trust again? There's just something about Evan that doesn't fit, but Cassie can't figure it out.
Ben Parish is a 16 year old boy who fled when his family was killed by evil people who took advantage of a lawless society. Having made it to a camp outside a military base, Ben is on the verge of succumbing to illness when he is saved and taken into the military base, where he is given medical treatment and trained up as a soldier. Ben's trust is complete, until his first military operation goes wonky, and everything he knows is turned upside-down.
You may be wondering, "Why weren't you all that impressed with the book?" While I might not have liked the storyline all that much, that's mostly due to my own weariness of this dystopian genre. Opening the first page I groaned, "Not again!" (I have to admit, that I had just finished reading Station Eleven, which is another such book) Rick Yancey is actually a fine writer. His main characters are well developed, and his alien invasion creative. He is descriptive in a way that allows the reader a good visual, without being too "wordy," allowing for an enjoyable read. I would have like to see his character of Evan changed, as well as his relationship with Cassie. It felt too predictable. But maybe he thought young female readers could relate, who knows.
Parents should be aware that there is language/cursing in this book, which surprised me. It also has a fatalistic feel to it, almost until the end. A hopelessness and wariness that is unsettling on some levels. And as with most of these books, there is a lot of violence and killing. As a parent, this provides a lot of interesting things to talk about with your child, if you so choose.
Let's Talk About It
If your family members are interested in this book, then encourage discussion about it afterward. You can use these questions to get started:
• Evan reads Cassie's diary, and learns things about her he otherwise wouldn't have learned. What might someone learn about you if they were to read your diary?
• How does this book advocate an atheistic point of view, or at least a view that God doesn't care? What do you think?
• Evan is like the classic cartoon where an angel sits on one shoulder and the devil on the other. How does Evan show that your character matters?
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