Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

11 July, 2013 Reviews 22 comments

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick YanceyThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Series: The Fifth Wave #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on May 7th 2013
Pages: 457
Genres: Post Apocalyptic, Young Adult
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author 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.

There’s no doubt in my mind that most people are going to be captivated with The 5th Wave. It’s engaging, features a witty protagonist, mystery, the right amount of anticipation and a romantic story line. Not to mention, it happens to be one of Penguin’s big titles and had a lot of marketing money poured into it. It’s not everyday that an ARC crosses my threshold with such a soft cover. Nor are they usually accompanied by beat up Teddies and survival bags.

the 5th wave and teddy

I had seen the reviews surfacing and shouting praise left and right, including Kat. And for most of the novel, I was right there with most people who loved the story, rooting for Cassie. But somewhere around the 50% mark, I felt the book lost some of its original luster.

Yancey sets up the world perfectly and there’s little fault to be found there. The narration is introduced by Cassie, who tells the reader of her life before the aliens came and the 4 waves that subsequently wiped out most of the human population. Her story, like the many others shown later, is not a happy one. She’s suffered the death of both of her parents and the separation from her 6 year old brother, Sam. I quite enjoyed her as a main character and found her humorous despite her grim situation. Her fierce determination to save her brother from the unknown (to her, at least) horrors built just the right amount of anticipation to keep me turning page after page.

One thing I didn’t expect was the multiple narrations: The Silencer, Zombie and Sam (though, he only narrates once, I believe). I’m surprised that I actually liked this style after a few reviews did mention it not working so well for them. I can definitely see it throwing readers off, but I thought it was pretty clever in the beginning. The way it switches back and forth, implanted a certain amount of doubt to the point where I there were times where I wasn’t sure who was actually human or alien.

Still all of that just wasn’t enough to keep away my rising disappointment. You see, The 5th Wave and I had a very interesting reading journey and I think I about expressed all of my emotions while reading it. There was the beginning where I’d learned about waves 1-4 and how horrifying they were. I had to take a moment and hug Sam’s teddy. It was a depressing situation and I needed cuddles.

hugging teddy

Then, Sam is taken away, Cassie is shot in the leg and I’m not sure if she’s going to make it. And some Other Stuff happens, like a bunch of people getting all killed off at once, and I found myself flipping pages super duper fast. I couldn’t wait to find out what the 5th alien wave actually was.


But that’s when things start going downhill for me, because all of a sudden there’s this weird insta-love romance that was, IMO, not done well at all. I get that Yancey was going for the whole “What really makes us human?” thing with this book. And having Cassie and The Silencer fall for each other was supposed to emphasize that, but c’mon. The whole “I shot you in the leg because I couldn’t bare shooting you in the head. Can’t you see I’m in love with you?” bit started sending off major weirdo vibes. Dare I say it? Yes, I think I shall. If Edward Cullen were an alien whose mission was to kill off remaining humans, but he instead falls in love with a girl, he would be The Silencer. The romance developed way too fast and had such a strange start (with The Silencer following her through the woods, reading her diary, going through her belongings and shooting her in the leg) that I just could find myself getting on board with it.

It was such a strange turn of events. One minute there’s death, carnage and a struggle for survival and the next minute Cassie’s in this farm with a guy who resembles Clark Kent from Smallville and he’s baking her bread. This is also that part where the narrative changes really started to become jarring because we also were keeping track of Zombie (a nickname for the character in the novel). Every time we were in his point of view, I felt like I was in the midst of playing Call of Duty. So from going back and forth from those very different scenarios, I had to take a small break and ask Teddy a very frank question: “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Not impressed

SPOILERS AHEAD: But I went back to reading because I really wanted to see what this 5th wave was all about. Unfortunately, that turned out to be the most disappointing aspect of the novel. Up until I found out what the 5th wave was, I thought these aliens were pretty badass. They came to earth with a plan and they knew exactly how to kill off humans very effectively.

1st Wave: Take out human technology – Humans rely heavily on this for almost everything. I’d take this out first too.

2nd Wave: Natural disasters – You can easily wipe out most of biggest cites by taking out the coasts with tsunamis.

3rd Wave: Plague – One of the most effective way to kill off a bunch of people: poison them with disease. You don’t even have to do much here. Just wait for them to die off.

4th Wave: Silencers (basically, think snipers) – Pick off all the survivors.

5th Wave: Kidnap all remaining children, including toddlers, nurse them back to health, feed them, train them military style and send them out to kill all the adults who they think are aliens but are really human. (UMM. What?)

The aliens had a good thing going for them. Every thing made sense up until the 5th wave. But why would they go through so much trouble for the 5th wave? The Silencers would have been just as effective or even more so, considering how fast they could take people out. They are faster, stronger, can see in the dark, etc. So, what’s the point in wasting resources and years to train human children to kill human adults?

My final verdict: The 5th Wave is definitely a page-turner and has plenty to offer a reader who enjoys science fiction. Even though the romance fell flat and the plot’s logical inconsistencies kept me from dishing out all my stars, it was still an enjoyable read. But despite the very strong start, ultimately, The 5th Wave didn’t live up to the hype for me.

Sorry, Kat. I fully expect your declarations of Review War in the mornin’.


ARC and teddy was received via the publisher for an honest review. No monies or favors were exchanged for a positive review, though, the teddy does look cool on my bookshelf. 

Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker, fangirl and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.

22 Responses to “Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey”

  1. Kara_M

    I totally agree with you. For the most part. I know I gave it 4 stars but it still ultimately let me down. Yours is the first review I have read that has me considering lowering it to 3. Well done. And I love your photos. Yup, that was pretty much me but imagine a dog instead of a teddy bear.

  2. Amanda87

    “But somewhere around the 50% mark, I felt the book lost some of its original luster.” Agree 100%
    The first half lived up to the hype. The second half didn’t. There were several logical inconsistencies which were so evident when compared to the first half. 3.5 / 5 stars 😉 Not quite 4 but the first half was amazing!

      • Danielle

        I loved your review. I felt the same way about the insta love and the Clark Kent reference- you are too much! However, the book did stick with me. It was just too unique for me to not love it. Just read the second one. It gets even better and you never know your problems with the way of extermination may change.

  3. ZMarriott

    Your expression in that last photo made me snortlaugh like a seal. Priceless.

  4. ashowerofsparks

    I agree with your thoughts about the romance 100%. The novel just came to screeching halt when Cassie was busying sexing up The Silencer…and they kept his identity a secret for so many pages, when I thought it was obvious from the beginning. I really enjoyed her character, but I felt she took a bit of a hit with this nonsense. I also really want to like her and Ben, but they barely know each other (but I was getting some Felicity/Ben vibes from them). Not to mention Ben’s other romantic interest. I thought this was some weird reverse quandrangle. Like it’s obvious the book’s OTP is supposed to be Ben/Cassie, but the twist is they really haven’t interacted and they’re with these other people first. So I’m hoping Book 2 will focus less on the romance shenanigans and just focus on them kicking alien ass.

    • Steph Sinclair

      ashowerofsparks LOL @ sexing up The Silencer. You really think it’s obviously supposed to be Ben/Cassie? I thought it felt more Cassie/Silencer. Ben doesn’t even seem to really know who she is. I hope there isn’t a lot of romance in book 2. >.<

      • ashowerofsparks

        Steph Sinclair ashowerofsparks Yeah. The feeling I get is like Ben/Cassie are supposed to be like Ben/Felicity. Like she has a thing for him, but doesn’t know him…and he doesn’t know her…but because of circumstances they get to know each other. And yeah…I hope there’s little to know romance in the second book, but we’ll probably not be that luck. And I hope “The Silencer” goes away. Cannot stand him and his ~characterization.

  5. Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog

    I haven’t read this, although one of my contributors reviewed it on The Bawdy Book Blog and loved it.  I will say that the 5th wave makes sense to me.  Brainwash the future generation to destroy all mankind, so the Aliens don’t have to do the work themselves.  What’s that saying?  “Work smart, not hard.”  😉

    Although what do they do with the children then?  Hmmm.  Guess I need to read this.

    • Steph Sinclair

      Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog I think the intention was to kill them afterwards. But why go through all the trouble when The Silencer’s could have taken everyone out? These things I don’t understand!

  6. Carrie L McRae

    o/ One of my favorite movies, and DEFINITELY my favorite line from it!

  7. ReadingbyKF

    Great review! I reallly enjoyed this, although I can see how the fifth wave and love story could be a problem. I think the point was to brain wash the kids, but with such aggressive 1-4th waves that guaranteed results, this one just seemed full of loopholes. Did they really think people wouldn’t figure that they’re trained by aliens? It’s different if they were only training toddlers, but there’re teenagers who’s learned to think for themselves in the midst and in the end, people did figure out the alien plot.

    • Steph Sinclair

      ReadingbyKF I guess that was why they never let adults into the camp because they believed they wouldn’t be able to brainwash them? So basically, it was the aliens who underestimated human teens? That’s their fatal flaw? I don’t know. Even if they did only take toddlers, the 5 wave is still anticlimactic compared to the first 3. Why not just round everyone up like they were doing and just shoot everyone? Much more effective.

  8. Ambrluvsports

    I was so jels because everyone is reading this book and raving about it, and THIS is what the 5th wave is?
    You’re right, Steph, it just seems illogical. ..well, actually it seems like a pre-planned set-up to force a showdown between Cassie and her little brother or something =/

    • Steph Sinclair

      Ambrluvsports Exactly. I can’t think of anything else. Sounds cool in theory, but makes the aliens look incredibly stupid. They watched humans for thousands of years and that’s the best plan they could come up with? No wonder Cassie outsmarted them.

  9. alexalovesbooks

    I love the photos that accompany this post Steph! They’re sincerely awesome. See, I’m a bit wary of The 5th Wave, if I’m being honest. It’s mostly the alien bit, since I’m not too keen on them. I’m worried that I won’t be able to connect well with the characters either, so there is that too!

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