Well wasn’t May just a kick in the pants, lovelies?! Life was hectic in general but to top things off I was bookless for almost the whole month. I think I started like four or five different books. These are books that I will eventually read (…she tells herself) but I needed something with a hook. I needed a tale that captured me from go. You know, that feeling that you get when you open a book and 10 seconds later you’re 60 pages in? That book that calls to you when you’re not reading it…The 5th Wave did that to me. Rick Yancey does an amazing job weaving the overtaking of our planet. This book is horrifically terrifying. For example, are you currently not really a fan of birds? Do you think that angry children are actually super dangerous tiny humans? If you have fears like these, this book might be too much for you. But you should read it anyways because it is. That. Good.
Cassie Sullivan is our primary storyteller through whom we learn about the beginning of the end of the world. There have been four waves so far. First, all of the electricity went out. Second, massive earthquakes and tidal waves cause flooding of every coastline in the world. By this time three billion are dead. Next is a plague transmitted by birds that wipes out 97% percent of the population. As we walk through this world with Cassie, alone and terrified, we learn with her about what comes next in the invasion. It is, at this point still hard to imagine the magnitude of this end of days situation. As Yancey says in the book, a “single death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic.” The scope of this book narrows in and then zooms out again. So, many times, are you reading and just going through the pages and then you stop and reread a sentence and realize how truly horrible some of the things going on in this book are!
There are other strands of narration as well which add to the awareness of the horror. We get in the mind of an alien sniper, who wades through the aftermath killing any human he comes across; additionally you also have Cassie’s brother, someone she went to high school with, and a person who saves her. One element that creates and holds tension throughout is that They look like us (Obvi.) so even though you might know someone, how do you know you know them? You know what I mean? The whole book is like that!! Yes, if you really think hard you can figure it out as you go. But, if you’re just reading this to get excited about suspense that isn’t your standard Every-Distopian-YA-Novel a la:
then this is for you! I really was invested in each of these perspectives and what’s more, they didn’t spend their whole section/part being worried about “the girl” and not doing their own shit, as it is, ya know, the end of the world and what not. Themes of keeping promises and love being the primary driving force are present, yes. However, I thought they were done in great ways. There were times when I went, “oh come on!” when it was getting a little too formulaic but those issues straightened themselves out fairly quickly.
While we do get to see these other perspectives, I really appreciated getting to know Cassie’s voice. When we are first introduced to her she is on her own after her brother has been taken by uniformed men and her parents die during two different waves. She is trying to survive in a world in which, as far as she knows, she is the only one left alive. She is strong and focused after not having seen another person in weeks…or is it months? This uncertainty of time is something that Yancey plays around with very beautifully. Characters often think of time in relation to their actions and the happenings around them, seconds into eons when a bullet is speeding towards you, hours into years when you’re left alone in the dark. When you’re solo in the world, things can get screwy. The noticings about time are interesting in the end when you realize the grand scale of these aliens coming from who knows where and how far away…how long has this been in the works? And we as humans can only think in the smallest increments of time.
In addition to the time talk, there is often weighty, lofty things that only get said in books and movies that are somehow just on this side of okay. For example,
“Cassie Sullivan didn’t run…He could see the familiar look of fear in her eyes, a look he had seen a hundred times, the look we give back to death when death looks at us. “
Is quickly followed by,
“His heart, the war.
Her face, the battlefield.”
But it is all okay! I’m fine with goofy lines if the story is strong and the people have good solid reasons to be on these “missions” that they are invariably always on.
The gravitas of what these kids go through – because they are all kids – is disturbing. Imagine all of the adults in the world dying and the kids being taken in by some sort of military unit and being trained to hunt. They don’t know if they are being told the truth (and neither do you), nor are they old enough to really question things. Over the course of the fourth wave, you again realize what is going on and have to occasionally re-read paragraphs. Whether they are made to do these things by humans or Others, going through dead bodies and “processing” thousands for cremation is not something that should be on an eight year old’s to do list. Neither, for that matter, should weapons training and emergency medical/tactical care be subjects that should be taught to six year olds. You realize that these children, who are now parentless, are being guided by people who are not at all concerned for their well being or what is best for them. They are being
trained brainwashed to kill. These horrors of the day keep tolling up and these kids are so glad to no longer be on their own in the middle of an alien invasion that they believe everything they are told!
Over the course of the entire book, you think for a section that you have something figured out and then the next chapter can go two ways: you could be wrong or you could be right which is sometimes even more scary. I haven’t read any of Yancey’s other works so I don’t know if he is just always good at suspense but man alive I am glad I fell into this book. There two books which round out the trilogy and I am anxious to start the second. I do know that there is a film that was made on the book in 2016 and I have heard nothing but terrible things about it so I haven’t as much as even seen the trailer. I wanted nothing to taint my experience of the book. This is an action that I am grateful for. There is also a lesson in that: don’t just watch dystopian thrillers. Read them. For an adventure that takes you to the end of the world and frequently punches you in the gut, pick up The 5th Wave.