Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Posted 05/02/2013 by alicemarvels in Science Fiction


Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Page Count: 480


realistic, smart alien invasion story; paranoid-making horror that will keep you up at night; beautiful moments of connection and hope


serious book hangover potential

An intelligent and horrifying vision of an alien visitation that will leave you thrilled…..and on the verge of total paranoia.

IF ALIENS EVER VISIT US, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans. —Stephen Hawking

THE OTHERS ARE SO FAR AHEAD OF US, it’s like comparing the dumbest human to the smartest dog. No contest.—Cassie Sullivan

If any story about ruthless and efficient alien invaders decimating humanity could ever be called realistic, Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave is it. When the Others arrive, they aren’t theatrical about it. They don’t ask to be taken to our leaders, and they don’t come down in flying saucers or march on our capital cities with buglike robots. But they’re not here for a friendly visit either, and when they do attack, it’s with a series of carefully orchestrated and brutally efficient waves. As you read about the attacks, you have to marvel at the elegance of their plan, even as stirs fear in you that an equally successful attack might one day happen.

I love reading a really immersive post-apocalyptic science fiction thriller like The 5th Wave, because my brain is left crawling with curious possibilities and ideas. If the book is on the more horrifying side, like this is, my brain is also crawling with spine-tingling images that keep me up well into the night. As well as being a damn good story, The 5th Wave is an inspirational breeding ground for your imagination and your nightmares.

I don’t want to spoil too much about the plot because it is a real delight to go into this not knowing anything. I will say that many of the story’s avenues are not the most original in existence. If you’ve read any alien invasion story like Ender’s Game or The Host, or survivalist stories like The Stand and The Passage, or if you’ve ever watched The X-Files, very little of what happens in this book is going to be terribly groundbreaking for you, but it is a well put together collection of ideas, however familiar, that makes for a terrifying, all-too-convincing package. This invasion feels real, like an unstoppable freight train, and the situations the surviving humans face are the stuff of nightmares. You will feel like no character is safe (and they’re not). We see the post-invasion world through several perspectives, and I wasn’t always sure people really were who they said they were, and what everyone’s motivations were, which made for a very suspenseful reading experience.

The main reason this novel succeeds in well-worn territory is the characters. The Others have the world in the palm of their hands when we begin the story, and they seem to hover over every page, dominating your fear, but it’s the human characters who will have your heart. Without spoiling too much, I can assure you there is romance as well as touching friendships and strong family relationships, in spite of the Others’ insistence on crushing the humans and their hope like cockroaches. Expect wonderful banter and unforgettable moments of tenderness and connection. In these really intense, emotional life-threatening stories, occasionally a few Epic Moments and Epic Quotes arise, that will most likely be as large in fans’ minds as “Real or not real?” and will be lovingly photoshopped and tumbled and t-shirted for years to come (especially when the movie hits theaters).

Cassie, our heroine, is going to get a lot of Katniss comparisons, because she’s a tough BAMF who knows how to survive in this terrifying, lonely new world. She’s also an amazing sister, going to death-defying lengths to find her little brother Sammy (if Sammy’s name had been called in a different district in The Hunger Games, you can bet Cassie and Katniss would be the last two standing in the arena. And gunslinging Cassie would probably win.)  I loved Cassie because of her fierce determination, but more so because she’s a totally average, even insecure girl who responds to the horror funhouse of waves by toughening the eff up. She has a snarky, hilarious inner voice in spite of all she’s been through, wisecracking about the stupidity of humanity’s fictional aliens vs. the Others, and reminiscing about the good ole days when her biggest problems were frizzy hair and a crush on the popular boy who never knew she existed. Now it seems no one knows she exists any longer, and she’d like to keep it that way, because she can’t trust anyone.

I won’t quote this book any more than I already have (I was highlighting my e-ARC so much I was expecting my Kindle to pop up a snarky warning message “You know highlighting the WHOLE book defeats the purpose of highlighting?”). Yancey is a supremely talented wordsmith (if you have read his Monstrumologist books, you already know this), and he is able to craft strikingly beautiful turns of phrase and images that are a pleasure to stumble upon, double take and re-read. He can have you marveling at his poetic command of melancholy beauty one moment, and the next have you impressed with the depths of filth and hilarity in his adolescent insults.

People are already climbing all over themselves to declare The 5th Wave THE NEXT HUNGER GAMES, and I know that’s the nudge of the pitch from publishers. I will say I foresee this being a VERY BIG DEAL. I hope that won’t deter anyone from reading it. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like hype and you’re a hype avoider, I feel sorry for you because you’re going to miss out on an amazing story. In this case, the hype is well-deserved.

The 5th Wave is the beginning of a series, and it ends at solid stopping point, so I can definitely assure you there is no cliffhanger, but there may as well have been for how my heart feels. I wanted to read the next book likeohmygoshnow. Normally when I say I would do ANYTHING for the next book in a series, I don’t really mean it, I just mean I’m a greedy little book nerd who always wants a good story to keep going. But I could easily move on to one of the million books in my TBR pile. Not this time. This book gave me a serious book hangover (which luckily coincided with a very action packed vacation where reading time was scarce). But I can definitely say it was worth the hangover.

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    I HIGHLY enjoyed this story and Cassie was definitely one of the bright lights of the whole thing. She’s just so..normal in a completely abnormal world. *glances over shoulder* It did, however, leave me feeling rather paranoid because of, well, you know. I couldn’t believe how quick this read was, despite its large size!


    Oh, good! I was looking forward to this book, but I didn’t realize how excited I should be. It sounds like “my kind of book” and well written to boot! Thanks!


    Yes! I loved the characters in this one and I also adored the family themes her brother was so sweet and not knowing what had happened to him after he got on the bus was so heartbreaking. Great review! So happy you loved this one too.


    I started this one and had to set it aside when reading at night, it’s just so darn REAL feeling, like that could really happen! I haven’t got far yet but I’m looking forward to finding a day when I can just sit down and read straight through (or at least mostly). I’m glad you really loved it, hopefully I feel the same way and don’t get too freaked out!


    No cliffie? Phew, I do hate those, but then again I hate all endings if I do not have the next book


    I can not wait to read this. It sounds epic. Awesome review.

    Jenea @ Books Live Forever


    The characters, premise, awesome plot and potential of book hangover makes me need to read this one! I have been eyeing it for a while now.


    “As you read about the attacks, you have to marvel at the elegance of their plan, even as stirs fear in you that an equally successful attack might one day happen.”

    LOVE that! This whole review is beautifully written, and I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on a copy of this book. Alien invasion stories typically aren’t my thing, but with such a strong focus on the human characters, I know I’ll be madly in love with this one. Plus, I want to marvel at the alien plan of attack:)


    Phew, again, I’m SO relieved I already pre-ordered a copy! Finally a book that is completely worthy of the hype. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen often enough. I’ve noticed that our tastes often align so your review pretty much guarantees that I’ll fall in love with this book, too.
    I really appreciate that you made an effort to be vague enough and allow us to go into this excitedly, but with as few informations as possible.
    As usual, gorgeous review, Lauren! I can’t wait to read this.


    I am a pretty big chicken but I really want to read this one!
    Awesome review!! Have a great weekend!!


    You had me there when you said that it made your imagination grow. SO love those kind of books. Also why I don’t watch horror. It’s not the movie, but my imagination after… 🙂 Still, this one really intrigues me. You have me really wanting this book now.

    Btw, I also don’t like hype so I’m glad you added that tidbit. 🙂


    Reading this right now — I’m just a few pages in — and so glad to hear that there is a stopping point. I’m tired of books that just cut off with no warning!
    Great review — you’ve made me excited to get back to this!

    You can find me here: Jen @ YA Romantics


    I absolutely love your review! I’m pretty sure I DID end up highlighting the whole book in the end. 😉 There were so many wonderful quotes throughout this. Cassie was awesome, wasn’t she? I loved her humour, though I do agree that she is a perfectly normal girl too. That was definitely refreshing. I’m so excited for the next one now. 🙂


    Holy crap. Your review alone makes me want to read this book like RIGHT NOW. Cassie sounds like such a tough and fierce protagonist, which is probably going to win me over right away. And if that’s not enough, I’ve already heard endless praise of Yancey’s writing. Wow. I need this book in my hands. Fantastic review!


    It’s always exciting to read a review that is filled with enthusiasm and praises! Thanks for comparing Cassie with Katniss – I think Cassie would become my next most-favorite heroine when I read the book! 🙂


    So glad you enjoyed this one as much as you did. I can’t wait to give it a read!

    – Jessica @ Book Sake


    I cannot wait to get my grubby paws on this! I will likely drop everything and start reading it! CANNOT WAIT. Then I will hate waiting for book two!


    Many good reviews about this book. But your review made me want to read it more 😀 Thanks for the honest and through review 😀



    I didn’t get past your pros and cons, because I can’t handle reading another review and seething with jealousy some more before I can get my hands on this one. But everything I’ve read about it makes me EXCITED. I love when a book actually lives up with the huge hype surrounding it. Bring on the invasion.


    I don’t usually read alien invasion novels, and I’m not entirely sure why. This book was so amazing and better than I imagined. I love Cassie for all the reasons you mentioned and little Sammy! I literally just finished this an hour ago but I already need the sequel. Great review! 🙂


    Yes YES! Yes. I completely agree and I think this review is so well put! The book hangover on this one was bad. I feel bad for The End Games, which I read right afterwards and is kind of a similar book, because there’s no way it can compare, unfortunately. But yes, totally agree on the epic quotes, the brilliant writing, and average snarky Cassie. I see this book becoming a very successful movie franchise, indeed.


    I’m so kicking myself that I didn’t hurdle over librarians to get a copy at TxLA. Urgh! *face palm* You’ve definitely got me all tingly with excitement over my future reeling from this book. In the past few years the possibility of book induced nightmares actually gets my heart pumping. Give me MOAR! Most excellent review.


    Boy is this book getting the love! It’s out of my comfort zone, but I still want to give it a try!


    I’m not much for SciFi, but this story sounds amazing. I love a premise like this, that seems completely plausible.
    So happy you enjoyed the book. Great review!


    I am a 100 pages in and holy cr@p this is good! Will read your review after mine is written!

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