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Monday, December 9, 2013

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave #1) by Rick Yancey

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.

Released: May 7th 2013    Pages: 457
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile  Source: Library

First Look: ***** As soon as I heard about this, I dismissed it as just another of the zillions of post-apocalyptic YA novels coming out this year.  Sure, it got a lot of hype, but that made me ignore it even more.  The more I heard about it, though, the more curious I became.  Many of my Goodreads friends read it and loved it (I trust the taste of many of my Goodreads friends over the taste of the masses), and, as a bonus, Rick Yancey wrote it, and I really enjoyed his The Monstrumologist.  Still, I was on the fence about this until I finally just decided to pick it up, because it would keep bothering me until I did.

Setting: ***** 
The struggle with a post-apocalyptic setting is that, essentially, it's all been done before.  At this point, it becomes more a question of who can pull it off well rather than uniquely.  There are always ways to make your setting a little different, of course, but in this case, the awesomeness isn't in the uniqueness--it's in how well Rick Yancey worked with something that is, for the most part, familiar.

I loved how believable this version of an apocalyptic future is.  Sometimes, you read a dystopian book and it leaves you thinking "Really?  Is that really how society would turn out?"  (A friend of mine has this exact problem with The Hunger Games--she can't see how the games make any sense, which is a fair complaint.)  In this book, though, it all made sense.  The alien invasion wasn't outlandish or tacky-feeling; it was believable and subtle, which made it creepy and unsettling.   

Characters: ***** 
Each character, then, was a reflection of this gritty setting.  It was easy to see exactly how living in a post-apocalyptic world had changed these characters.  Cassie was hardened from struggling to survive on her own for so long, but I loved how she still maintained her humanity.  She still cared for her brother, which was the thing that made her human, and easy to connect with.  She's a tough person to like, but she was strong, as well as realistic.

As for my favorite character, though, it's a toss-up between Evan and Ben/Zombie.  Evan's personal conflict between himself and...the other himself was interesting.  It took me longer to like him, because he seemed too good to be true, at first.  I developed an attachment to him, though, over the course of the novel.  He was more sensitive than Cassie, and perhaps not quite as hardened.  And then there's Zombie.  He reminded me of Wes from Frozen--they're both soldiers who care more about the group of kids they "command" than themselves, and they'll do anything to keep them safe.  I felt for Zombie the entire time, as he fought to make sense of, well, everything.  Okay, maybe he is my favorite.

Plot: ***** It took a few chapters for me to get into it.  Initially, when it was just Cassie trying to survive on her own, I wasn't as interested as I was later in the book.  The more I grew to care about the characters, though, the more compelling the plot became.  This book isn't quite told chronologically--with Cassie's storyline, the timeline is slightly fractured.  Still, though, this was used effectively.

This book was intense, and not in the way I expected, either.    I expected the full-on action movie type intensity, with plenty of suspense and guns going off.  I did not expect the emotional intensity of this plot.  Excuse me, Rick Yancey, but I never asked for these feelings.

While I wasn't literally doing the Peter-Parker-crying-in-a-corner thing, obviously, this had an impact.  It made me think, and it made me feel.  I kept turning pages because I wanted so badly to see Cassie reunited with her brother.  To see Evan's struggle to protect her in spite of himself, and to see Zombie and his crew stay safe.  This book is harsh, dealing with loss, guilt, PTSD, and most of all, kids forced to grow up faster than they ever should have (in much the same way as The Drowned Cities).  It's riveting, though, in its harshness, and the grittiness is never forced.  It's never just for the sake of it--it's done with the purpose of making you think, which was accomplished well.  

Uniqueness: *****  While it uses elements that have been done over and over again, it manages to distance itself from the crowd.  It does this mainly by being more than your average post-apocalyptic survival story--it's also a story about love, family, and humanity.

Writing: ***** This book was actually quite quotable.  Multiple times, I came across a line that made me stop and think, in a good way.  None of these lines were flashy or full of gorgeous prose--they were awesome in their simplicity.  As is this entire book, in fact.  

“I had it all wrong," he says. "Before I found you, I thought the only way to hold on was to find something to live for. It isn't. To hold on, you have to find something you're willing to die for.”

This book comes up with some interesting and true insights, like the one above.  And ones like this:

“How do you rid the Earth of humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.”

The book was written in such a real, raw way.  I could feel the emotions of the characters, and I could connect to them through the narration.  In this regard, Rick Yancey held nothing back, and it paid off.

Likes: The pages dividing the chapters were lovely.

Not-so-great: I don't want to wait for the sequel.

Overall:  This is a rare example of how reading a book out of sheer curiosity can, in fact, be worthwhile.  I almost didn't read The 5th Wave, but I'm glad I did.  The characters were awesome, and I genuinely cared about them and wanted them to succeed.  The writing style was real and honest in the best way possible.  The entire book was intense, and presented a harsh (if not honest) view of a possible future.  I loved it, and can't wait for the sequel.

Similar Books: It involves characters struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic future like Life As We Knew It and its companion The Dead And The Gone, or Ashes.  Some of the characters are kids-turned-soldiers, like in The Drowned Cities.

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