WARNING: IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE 5TH WAVE BY RICK YANCEY, THIS DISCUSSION CONTAINS LOTS OF SPOILERS!
I finished The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey earlier in the week, and I must say that this was one of the most amazing young adult science fiction books that I have ever read. So amazing, in fact, that I wanted to talk more in depth about this book — so this discussion has a number of spoilers.
You can read my non-spoilery review here.
This is, without a doubt, a character-driven and emotionally driven book. Prepare yourself if you’re an extremely emotional person. It has been an extremely, extremely long time since I have read a book that made me this damn emotional. Yancey does a wonderful job successfully getting into the minds of his characters, portraying them realistically in this post-apocalyptic world. This is a story about loss as much as it is survival. With every mention of Cassie’s hardships (her mother’s death, her father’s murder, and her little brother’s abduction), of every mention of Ben’s various torments (losing his entire family to murderous robbers and caring his little sister’s locket around as a reminder), I honestly felt myself on the verge of tears. Yancey has a wonderful talent in connecting with his characters on an emotional level.
I found the strategy of the alien’s invasion to be incredibly interesting. The earlier chapters of Cassie’s first person, limited narrative are incredibly written and are beautifully detailed about the alien’s attacks. They are a little info-dumpy, which was initially off-putting, but it really helped set the scene for the rest of the book. There is no doubt that Yancey spent a long time nutting the backstory of this novel beforehand. I really, really liked the fact that the aliens made the humans slowly grow to distrust one another, and then play on this distrust in order for them to kill one another. It was an interesting element and says a lot about our own humanity.
Whilst I really liked Cassie, at times I grew very frustrated and wanted to smack her over the head! Cassie is an incredible character. It was so heartbreaking to see that Cassie was slowly losing whatever little hope they had, becoming incredibly depressed and hating her father for letting her little brother get onto the bus that took him away from her. However, the fact that Cassie missed so many clues in regards to Evan’s motives and his identity drove me absolutely insane! It was incredibly obvious that Evan was one of the alien invaders — there were just so many clues pointing towards his true identity! I mean, Cassie did constantly question Evan’s intentions, but why did it have to take so long for Cassie to realise? This seemed to undermine Cassie’s intelligence.
On that note, I really don’t like the love story between Cassie and Evan. Insta-love plots are absolutely awful and this is no exception. The romantic attraction between Cassie and Evan does not develop naturally, in fact, it is quite rushed. Also, this so-called romantic relationship between Cassie and Evan seemed pretty damn creepy to me. Actually, to be honest, Evan seemed incredibly creepy to me. This is not the kind of love interest that I want to read about. I mean Evan was the one that shot Cassie in the leg, followed her and read her diary, was always creeping around doorways, and then lied to her dozens of times. And yet, Cassie manages to fall for Evan regardless. How did Yancey think that Evan was the perfect love interest for Cassie? By doing so, Yancey continues to undermine the intelligence of Cassie’s character.
But I absolutely love the character of Ben. Without a single doubt, Ben would have to be my favourite character. His journey is incredibly interesting and action-packed. Also, we really get to see how Ben grows and develops as a character. In the beginning, Ben was a stereotypical ‘hot-football-player’ who everybody loved, and when the alien invasion begun he lost everything. This is incredibly cliched. However, the rest of Ben’s transformation is awesome. Ben becomes a very strong, intelligent and determined soldier. He becomes a great leader, remains very loyal to his friends and becomes a wonderful combatant. His development throughout the course of the novel is a real highlight.
The secondary characters, including Ben’s merry band of misfits, were not as well-developed. Disappointedly. I talked about this quite briefly during my initial review, though I wanted to go into some detail here. Characters are incredibly important to me. And I was extremely disappointed by the lack of character development when it came to the secondary characters. In fact, the secondary characters were very flat, two-dimensional and under-developed compared to Cassie and Ben. They never seemed to break out of their shells and continued to be the same, flat characters they were in the beginning. Yancey could, and definitely should, have spent a lot more time developing these secondary characters into characters that didn’t simply melt into the background. I wanted to learn more about the backgrounds of Ringer and Teacup, especially. I really wanted the antagonists to be more fleshed out as well.
The relationship between Cassie and Ben is perhaps the most totally, one-hundred percent realistic. I quite liked the fact that Cassie harboured this large crush on Ben during high school. She believed that they shared some sort of connection due to the fact that their younger siblings were born a week apart (though, don’t we all believe stupid things like this when we were young?), only to be heartbroken when they run into each other again in the post-apocalyptic world and he doesn’t remember her. This was incredibly realistic to me. First crushes rarely work out and it was nice to have another ‘star-crossed lover’ trope. Perhaps their relationship will slowly and naturally develop, unlike the insta-love between Cassie and Evan. *fingers crossed* Anyone else ship them?
Lastly, I would honestly describe this book as a love letter to science fiction. I am a gigantic science fiction fan (as if that wasn’t completely obvious) and I couldn’t help but feel my heart flutter with every single science fiction reference. There were numerous Star Wars, Star Trek and Terminator references scattered throughout the book — one of my favourites was when Cassie referred to the soldiers as ‘Stormtroopers’. This is probably one of my favourite elements of the novel.
What do you think of The 5th Wave?