We can safely file this book under the category "Books I Might Not Have Read If I Didn't Work at a Bookstore." I'm not old, but I am certainly old enough to know what I like, and I never have problems finding books that I want to read. I like to think of this as "reading confidence." It sometimes gets me stuck in a rut, though. That is where it's really nice to have someone (or a group of someones) who shake up reading habits. For me, it's usually my VCFA community or the group of teen readers I talk to at the bookstore. I knew about The 5th Wave, but I probably would have never picked it up if those teen readers hadn't bought copy after copy of it, and talked my ear off about it. So once I managed to get it back in stock, I picked it up and whoosh, I was sucked in.
The 5th Wave is about an alien invasion. Is it an invasion, or just an attack? Do we really know? What we do know is this: The aliens attack in waves. The first wave throws humanity into chaos by cutting all electricity. The second wave decimates all coastal cities with major typhoons. The third wave is an unknown epidemic that kills off most of the survivors. The fourth wave--perhaps the most frightening of all--is the revelation that the aliens are using humanity to pick each other off, one by one. The fifth wave is yet to come.
The books opens with Cassie, a teenage girl whose parents are dead. She's been separated from her little brother, but she's determined to find him. She feels like the last human alive as she travels across the abandoned countryside, tracking her brother, unable to trust anyone, bracing herself for the 5th wave. Her new world has completely challenged everything she thought she knew--she can't relate to the person she was before, and she's not really sure of anything now, only that she must find her brother. She encounters another boy, Evan, who is just as alone as she is. She wants to trust him, but what will she be giving up if she does?
Yancey's novel is non-linear, and the sections jump from character to character, weaving back and forth through time. This definitely helps build tension from scene to scene, and adds to the mystery of what is really going on, who the aliens really are, who can be trusted, and the most pervasive question of all--what do they want?
What impressed me most about this novel is Yancey's eloquent language and sensitivity to the complex emotions that each character experiences. The language is poetic and brutal, and Cassie is forced to make decisions that have serious emotional implications throughout the book. She must look inside herself, and ask herself tough questions about why she keeps moving forward, what she values, and what she wants in order to make sense of her new world. Each character faces his or her own crises and must wrestle with themselves to keep moving forward. There are surprising connections and yawning mysteries to be faced. Chances must be taken, faith is tested.
Yancey gives readers answers that breed more questions, and keep the pages of this story turning fast. While the final action scene does push the boundaries of believability, every choice, consequence, victory, and failure in this novel feels earned. It's not often I read a fascinating high-concept story that is as action-packed as it is emotionally engaging. I'm so, so glad I picked up The 5th Wave and I urge you to do the same!
The 5th Wave is out in paperback this month, and a movie is in the works, set to be released this time next year! I'll follow up later this week with a post about the sequel, The Infinite Sea.