Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Fifth Wave Review

The review by Justin Cronin below starts with this line: "In a post-Potter, post-Katniss era, the line between young adult and mainstream fiction often blurs." This is very true, especially for me as I tend to read a lot of YA books. I've written about this before but it remains true that there are some young adult books that are just as entertaining and well written as adult literature. And sometimes more exciting and universally appealing.

Thus is the case with The 5th Wave. Unlike typical dystopian novels, The 5th Wave takes place in the midst of a disaster brought on by the arrival of an alien mothership, which appeared suddenly in the sky. And then did nothing. At least at first. But then come four waves of death and destruction, aimed at wiping out the human race. Here's a description of the waves from an article in Rapid City Journal (whatever that may be):

"In the first wave, all technology is made useless when the power grid is knocked out, causing widespread chaos. In the second wave, tsunamis wipe out coastal cities and their inhabitants. The third wave continues the killing, this time via a deadly plague spread by birds.
Then comes the fourth wave, involving "Silencers," humans who were implanted years ago with an "alien" gene while still in their mothers' wombs. These Silencers look and seem human, yet are actually programmed to kill any remaining humans. Because it's impossible to tell who is really human and who is a Silencer, the basic rule for everyone has become: Trust no one.
As the book opens, it's time for the fifth wave, which is supposed to empty Earth of all humans so the Others can take over a planet free of what they clearly believe is a lower intelligence."
Okay, so that's the basic idea. The story itself is told in a couple different voices. Cassie, a sixteen year old survivor, is living by herself in the woods, a few months after the first wave (although initially it seemed to me at least that she had been alone much longer). Through Cassie's memories, the reader understands the different waves and what happened to Cassie's family. Both of her parents are dead when the book opens, but she has a much younger brother named Sam who was taken by soldiers into a refugee camp. She promised to join him when he was taken (she wasn't allowed to join him) but is having trouble keeping that promise since she is afraid to wander too far from her camp because of the Silencers. Cassie is a realist but still clings to the memories of her past life - her family and her unrequited crush on Ben Parrish. 

Cassie finally decides to go after Ben, but on the way, she is shot in the leg by an unseen Silencer. She tries to flee from a car under which she has taken refuge, but ends up passing out in a snowstorm. That isn't her end though. She is found by Evan Walker, a slightly older farm boy who nurses her back to health and teaches her how to use a gun. She isn't without her suspicions of Evan, though, whose story doesn't quite add up even though he seems to have developed real feelings for her. 

Meanwhile, another young man nicknamed Zombie ends up at the same "refugee" camp as Sammy (nicknamed Nugget). Turns out children are being trained to fight the Silencers. However,  as Zombie trains and deploys on his first mission, he learns that the army he is fighting with may not be exactly what he thought they were. 

The Fifth Wave is a well written, gripping novel with well-written characters who don't fall into the typical cliches of YA dystopia. Even the love story angle works well, although I think it could have used more buildup. The end is definitely exciting and sets the story up nicely for a sequel. I haven't read about one yet, but I'm sure it's coming. And the movie rights were bought before the book was even released. The Fifth Wave is getting a lot of buzz out there and it's definitely worth reading, especially during all the intense summer storms we've been having!


NY Times Review (written by Justin Cronin!)

The Next Hunger Games?

Buy it at amazon and Barnes & Noble

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