Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Title: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Genre: Sci-Fi
Publication Date: May 7, 2013

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother--or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

So, there's this (now not-so-)new book called The 5th Wave. I don't know if you guys have heard of it, but it's only one of the biggest releases of the season, right? Which means most of you have probably already read it and formed your opinions, but I love discussing books, so bear with me as I tell you my opinion, and then perhaps we can compare notes.

I picked up The 5th Wave when it came out after reading about it at my internship back in February. How could I not with a book flap summary like that? It sounded beyond awesome! I actually finished reading this book a while ago, but it's taken me some time to formulate my opinion on it and edit down what was quite a long post. My final verdict on the book? I have mixed feelings. Allow me to elucidate.

1. The Characters: 5/5
As anyone who knows me will tell you, characters are big deal to me. I spend my days evaluating scripts for movies and TV shows and short stories for publication, and guaranteed one of the first things I'll mention in the comments is the characters. I'm sure my boss is tired of reading lines like "The characters really come alive off the page. I can visualize them in my head as I read!" from me, but truth be told, if the characters aren't interesting, I check out in about five minutes.

The characters were T5W's saving grace for me; they got me through to the end. (That sounds worse than it is.) Though the writing was beautiful (see #4) and the premise genuinely interesting, the book starts off slow (see #5), and much as I wanted to read it, it was the characters that made that possible. Cassie is great,  just about everything I'd want in a heroine—she's strong, brave, and resourceful. Much as she'd like to, she can't just lie down and take it. She's a fighter, and on top of that, she's pretty funny. I loved her voice and the wit that shows through when she was talking to others, and that was really what kept me hanging in there when the going got tough.

The two male leads are equally enchanting, though for different reasons. I really liked Ben as the super soldier. I thought Yancey did a great job writing his character. He kind of reminded me of Captain America, which during an alien invasion, isn't a Captain America exactly what America needs? Food for thought. Evan was intriguing despite the twist in his storyline being somewhat obvious from his introduction (on the book flap). I can't really discuss my love for Evan without spoilers, but he is just…an onion? There are just so many questions I'd like to ask him or Yancey, because he's fascinating. I give Yancey an A+ on these guys.

2. The Relationship: 3/5
I was actually really disappointed on the relationship front. Having not read that many male YA authors, but knowing that, in general, there is often a difference in the way males write versus females (not that there can't be crossover, of course), I was really eager to see something new on the relationship front. Not only was it not new, but it was a textbook case of Insta-Love, which really made me want to put the book down, especially because it basically ruined Cassie's character in that section of the book. I mean, I get it. It's the end of the world (to her), she hasn't seen anyone, much less a living, breathing, non-bleeding guy, for a while, but that's precisely why the relationship development doesn't make any sense! What happened to distrustful Cassie? The inciting incident of the book tells and shows us what she would do to any person she met on the street, but she doesn't do it to him because he's pretty and smells like chocolate? Come on.

I gave it a 3, though, because while I don't like Cassie's feelings for him, his feelings for her were great. It was almost like an obsessive love, which, and this will sounds strange, I've been thinking about and writing a lot lately. This one is a different kind of obsessive love than you usually see: he's not violent about it, and in fact, she's probably not even aware of it, but it's there, just quietly bubbling under the surface, and I loved it.

That said, I did not love Cassie turning back into the high school girl she was before the aliens launched their attack when she runs into her high school crush again. That was annoying. I suppose it makes sense because you react with what you know in a situation that just seems completely out of hand, but it's almost like she gets stuck there, which doesn't make sense, because after the first two minutes, she should remember that everything is different now. There is no more space or time to be that girl she was back in high school. Fingers crossed that a love triangle doesn't develop.

3. The Ambiance: 4/5
So I use this fancy word here as a substitute for setting; basically, the world that Yancey brings us into. I just want to say three words here: AH-MAZE-ZING. I think one of the hardest things to do as a writer is making not only your characters come to life on the page, but also the world they live in. It's something I struggle with a lot, but Yancey does it seemingly effortlessly. I felt the disorientation that Cassie, her family, and Ben and his teammates feel trying to figure out who they're supposed to be fighting. While my first prediction actually turned out to be right, I won't sit here and pretend that I didn't second, third, and fourth guess myself, flip sides, and invent new conjectures about what was going on. It was confusing and terrifying. I often felt like I was pounding through trees or sitting in the room with them. Well done!

4. Writing: 4/5
The writing was great, and honestly one of the highlights of the book. It was absolutely beautiful. The way he set up the book in sections that allowed us entry into different people's perspective really worked to his advantage, and played a large role in helping him sustain the tension. Props for that! This is something that I'm going to be talking about more in my second post on T5W, but Yancey has a real talent for voice.

5. Pacing: 2.5/5
The pacing of the book was a bit slow. The first 100 pages were difficult for me to get through, because it's just us and Cassie, and I think Cassie really shines when she has other people to interact with, which at that point, she only has in memories. The book gets considerably better in terms of pacing and readability once we get to meet Zombie, and she runs into Evan. I docked another point, because the pacing of the relationship was completely out of control and far too fast to me. And the .5 point comes from the repetitiveness of the prose, especially from Cassie. I liked that Yancey picked key phrases, words, and ideas that crossed all the perspectives he allows us access too, but after the first ten times we're told the world is ending and that the humans thought they knew the aliens, but they actually didn't know anything at all or "humans = cockroaches" analogies, I wanted to throw my hands up in surrender, and yell, "Okay, I got it! We are worthless, we know nothing, the world is ending! Take my money, my car, whatever you want, just please can we move on?"

Overall: 3.8/5

This final score was not arrived at mathematically, but it is the score that I arrived at after intense thought about what I would give the book. 4 seemed too high as the book did not exceed my expectations in everything, but 3 was definitely too low, because it was more than just average, and in a couple cases, it did exceed my expectations. Plus, though it might seem somewhat unimportant to most, the relationship really put a damper on this book for me. As I said, it almost made me want to put it down.

Final Verdict: I liked it, but I don't know that it lived up to all the hype.

Welcome to You Know!

Hello, and welcome to You Know What I Mean, Right? (You Know, for short), a new kind of book blog! I'm Lo, your host on what I hope will prove to be a long, crazy, and fun journey all about YA (and the occasional diversion). You can find out more information than you ever wanted to know about me or my blog on the About Me and About Blog pages listed above, but I'll give you a short introduction to both anyway.

I am recent college grad, who loves to read, write, and talk about books. This blog mostly came from experiences I had in a Children's Literature class I took and my internship developing movie and TV scripts that got me asking questions like "What is YA?" "What draws me to one book and pushes me away from another?" "What can I take from this book to influence my own writing?" These are the kinds of topics and questions I hope to be exploring here, instead of me just posting book reviews (what I mean when I saw "new kind of blog"). This is further explored on that About Blog page though, so if you're curious, you should click that right away!

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