My first book of the new year was The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy. I had seen a pretty amazing book trailer for the book on the Penguin Young Readers channel on YouTube (check out the trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKkEAIs4pJc), and thought it would be an interesting read. If I had paid closer attention to the trailer, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to read it. My dad was a big Sci-Fi fan, so I grew up with Star Trek, Star Wars, Lost In Space (the original series), and all those kinds of movies and shows. My dad even said he was once abducted by aliens once and had a scar on his neck to prove it. My dad was a big kidder, but he told the story with such a serious tone that I was never sure if he was playing around with me or if he actually believed it. Despite all of this, I am not a huge Sci-Fi fan, at least no in my reading, so when the aliens first showed up in the story (the first sentence of chapter one), I almost put it down, but the story quickly drew me in and I had to finish.
The book is narrated by several of the book’s characters beginning with Cassie (“Not Cassie for Cassandra. Or Cassie for Cassidy. Cassie for Cassiopeia the constellation…”). Earth has come under attack by the Others. Cassie is on her own after surviving the first four waves. Her mother died during the 3rd wave (“We had different names for it. The Red Death or the Blood Plague. The Pestilence. The Red Tsunami. The Fourth Horseman. Whatever you wanted to call it, after three months, ninety-seven out of every hundred people were dead.”) Her brother Sammy was taken away by some soldiers shortly before her father was killed by those same soldiers. Now Cassie’s one mission in life is to survive and find Sammy, but that mission is put in jeopardy when she is shot by a Silencer (Cassie’s new name for the Others). Cassie is found and nursed back to health by Evan Walker, but can she trust him? Is he human, or is he other?
Other sections of the book are narrated by Zombie, formerly know as Ben Parrish, Cassie’s former crush who has been rescued by soldiers, taken to Camp Haven, and been trained as a soldier to fight in the war to hunt down and kill the Teds, those whose brains have been infested by the aliens. Ben, who ran when his little sister was attacked and killed, is determined to never run away again but to hunt down and rid the Earth of as many Teds as possible; however, an incident on his very first mission as a real soldier makes him question who he’s really hunting. How do you know who the bad guy is when the bad guy looks and acts just like you?
The changing narrators allow the book to have several different plot lines going on at all at once, but all the plot lines converge as the book draws towards its conclusion. Characters’ beliefs are challenged, bonds are formed, and sacrifices are made, but the book ends long before the story does. I was reading away on my Kindle and flipped the page after a crucial point in the story only to find that it was actually the last page, and I said out loud to my Kindle, “Seriously?!?” I (and other readers like me) will have to wait until September 2014 to find out what happens to Cassie, Sammy, Ben and Evan.
This book is definitely a YA title written for high school aged reader. There is a good bit of profanity, including some of the heavyweight curse words, and a lot of violence. As I said at the beginning, I’m not a Sci-Fi reader, but this is a very intriguing story about trust and bravery and survival and, ultimately, what it means to be human. I will definitely be downloading the sequel, The Infinite Sea, when it is released in the fall.