8 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th WaveTitle: The 5th Wave

Author: Rick Yancey

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: May 2013
Hardcover: 480 Pages

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.

Stand alone or series: Book 1 in a planned series

How did I get this book: ARC from the Publisher

Format (e- or p-): Print ARC

Why did I read this book: It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Rick Yancey‘s. The Monstrumologist books are among my very favorites in current YA SFF, so when I learned the illustrious Mr. Yancey would be taking on the apocalypse, alien invasion style, I was ecstatic. When the glowing reviews started to roll in, I was even more excited for the book – to put it plainly, The 5th Wave was one of my most highly anticipated books of 2013.


Sometimes I think I might be the last human on Earth.

Seventeen-year old Cassie (for Cassiopeia, not Cassandra or Cassidy) is all alone in the world. Camped out in a solitary stretch of the woods, it has been weeks since Cassie has seen another person – for all she knows, Cassie may just be the sole remaining human survivor of a swift, brutal mass extermination.

Just a few months earlier, the Arrival of the Others was a global sensation, inciting political mayhem, hope and fear. And just ten days after the Arrival, the 1st wave strikes – a concentrated global EMP, destroying all electronics in a single fell swoop, and killing half a million people.

Sometimes in my tent, late at night, I think I can hear the stars scraping against the sky.

In the 2nd wave, three billion people are killed in a single day. Using a powerful tactical strike, the Others create a massive earthquake and tidal wave that literally wipes out every person living within 60 miles of an ocean coast.

Bye-bye, New York. Bye, Sydney. Good-bye, California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, British Columbia. So long, Eastern Seaboard. Japan, Hong Kong, London, Rome, Rio. Nice to know you. Hope you enjoyed your stay!

With the 3rd Wave, the remaining four billion humans on the planet are battered by the Red Death – an avian-carried superflu, with a 97% mortality rate. In twelve weeks, the humans lucky enough to survive waves 1 and 2 meet bloody, painful deaths.

Whatever you wanted to call it, after three months, ninety-seven out of every hundred people were dead. That’s a lot of bloody tears.

Cassie loses her mother to the plague in the 3rd Wave – but otherwise, she and her family are lucky. With her father and her six year old brother Sammy, Cassie and her family leave their home and strike out on the road, looking for other survivors, and banding together in a hidden woodside refugee camp.

It is here that the 4th Wave strikes – a devastating blow that Cassie and her family never could have anticipated.

In the 4th Wave, you can’t trust that people are still people. But you can trust that your gun is still your gun.

The 4th Wave leaves Cassie completely alone, the sole survivor of the massacre of the human refugee camp. Cassie watches in horror as her father and every other human refugee is gunned down in cold blood by the same soldiers that took Cassie’s little brother away to supposed safety.

Alone, terrified but determined, Cassie has her journal, her M-16, and Sammy’s ratty stuffed bear in her backpack and a desperate promise to keep. Alone, Cassie strikes out of the woods to find and rescue her brother, no matter the cost.

The newest novel from Printz Honor author Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave was one of my most highly anticipated books of 2013; though it also was a book that I approached with a healthy dose of apprehension. The waves of hype accompanying this book is staggering, and as of late I’ve been burned by the dreaded hype machine.

Well, folks, I’m thrilled to tell you that The 5th Wave is the real deal. Rick Yancey delivers an alien invasion book that is both familiar and unique; unexpected in all the right places while still playing by the most gratifying genre tropes; stylistically beautiful without sacrificing any of the action that the blockbuster apocalypse novel demands.

In other words: The 5th Wave unequivocally kicks ass, and I loved the ride.

Inherent kitschiness of the numbered “waves” aside, the premise of this novel is utterly superb, and a science fiction mainstay. The aliens are here, and they are not friendly. While alien invasion stories have been done (and done, and done), The 5th Wave excels in the plotting and premise department because of its surprising narrative style and unique twists on the human genocide. Most alien invasion stories pick a single method of destruction (e.g. blue particle deathrays focused over the major cities and hubs of the world, tripods crawling, gassing and incinerating hapless humans in their wake), The 5th Wave shows an elaborately planned slow game from our alien conquerors: darkness, tidal waves, pestilence, and aliens wearing human flesh. The kicker, of course, is the eponymous 5th wave – will there be one, and if so, what form will it take? This is a terrifying reveal – one that isn’t exactly unexpected from the reader’s perspective, nevertheless horrific when you realize the brutal totality of the last wave of human extermination. While the alien motivations are familiar, the execution of this plan to eradicate humanity is ridiculously – terrifyingly – good.

A large part of the success of the premise and plot is thanks to the novel’s memorable and effective narrative style. While the description of the book suggests that this is Cassie’s first person story, it’s actually an alternating point of view adventure, involving not only Cassie, but her brother Sammy, and two other surprising perspectives along the way (I won’t spoil who or why they are surprising). Of course, Cassie is the star of the book, our heroine, who is terrified and so alone, but smart, funny, and so bloody determined to keep her promise and make her way to Sammy that it is heartbreaking in its plaintive desperation. This determination and survival instinct is, to me, what makes Cassie so memorable – there are so many chances for her to collapse of give up, so many turns where she could have been reduced to Insipid YA Dystopia Heroine. You know her. The sweet, pretty girl that (thanks to no action or intelligence of her own) manages to Save the Day and score the Superhot Dude of her Dreams without actually DOING anything or having to get her hands dirty. No, Cassiopeia has blood on her hands, and while she does become entangled in a bit of romantic nonsense, her story is not about being saved by the Hot Mysterious Guy – it’s about her promise to her younger brother, and her boiling rage at those who have killed everything she loves. I should also mention the other main character of this piece – a human young man that loses everything and is thrust into a supersoldier program, honing him and other survivors into hardened killing machines, hungry for revenge against the alien Others. This particular character’s story is as painful as Cassie’s, and while she recuperates from her near-fatal injury, it is his narrative that propels the story forward.

Which brings me to the only real thing I wasn’t crazy about in the novel: I was completely taken aback by the romance that blossoms between Cassie and Evan, how she’s incapacitated for so long and dependent on Evan for his help. To me, this is a potential goldmine of a relationship fraught with tension, secrets, and layers – but the romantic attraction is so rushed and out of place with the rest of the book. (In fact, if I’m being honest, it felt like the romance was amped up to keep with the pattern in so many other post-apocalyptic/dystopian YA novels.) That said, I like that Cassie keeps her head on straight and always questions, never accepting Evan at face value. And, while the action slags with Cassie healing and the winter’s onslaught, the narrative is nicely countered by the action we see with our soldier character’s training and gradual awareness of the truth.

What else can I say about The 5th Wave? I devoured this book, I loved this book, and I cannot wait for more.

Without a doubt, The 5th Wave is of the very best books I’ve read in 2013.

Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:


I’m not talking about real aliens. The Others aren’t stupid. The Others are so far ahead of us, it’s like comparing the dumbest human to the smartest dog. No contest.

No, I’m talking about the aliens inside our own heads.

The ones we made up, the ones we’ve been making up since we realized those glittering lights in the sky were suns like ours and probably had planets like ours spinning around them. You know, the aliens we imagine, the kind of aliens we’d like to attack us, human aliens. You’ve seen them a million times. They swoop down from the sky in their flying saucers to level New York and Tokyo and London, or they march across the countryside in huge machines that look like mechanical spiders, ray guns blasting away, and always, always, humanity sets aside its differences and bands together to defeat the alien horde. David slays Goliath, and everybody (except Goliath) goes home happy.

What crap.

It’s like a cockroach working up a plan to defeat the shoe on its way down to crush it.

You can download the first 54 pages HERE. Also, if you’re into some of the great quotes from this book, I highly recommend checking out the dedicated page on the official website HERE.

The 5th Wave (Quote)

Additional Thoughts: We are part of the official The 5th Wave blog tour! Our stop is this Saturday – we’ll have a post about our survival pack picks, plus a chance to win the book.

5th Wave Blog Tour

Meanwhile, make sure to check out the official book website and the other stops on the tour.

Rating: 8 – Awesome, leaning towards a 9 and easily one of my favorite books of 2013

Reading Next: Without A Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal

Buy the Book:

(click on the links to purchase)

Ebook available for kindle US, kindle UK, nook, google play, kobo, sony & iBookstore


  • Gin
    May 7, 2013 at 7:08 am

    Can’t wait to read this one!

  • AnimeJune
    May 7, 2013 at 9:11 am

    This book sounds AMAZING. Part of me was like, “blah, another dystopian?” but all the reviews for it have been positive.

    Blurgh, though, to the unnecessary shoe-horned in romance. Particularly if it’s just there to check off a list of ‘Necessary in YA’ tropes. Huge pet peeve for me, but I’m glad it doesn’t detract from the book.

  • Jill
    May 7, 2013 at 9:24 am

    I can’t think of the last time I went to a bookstore on the day of a release with the purpose of picking up a new book, but I think today might be that day! So excited for this.

  • Liz
    May 7, 2013 at 9:26 am

    I’ve been burned out on dystopias for a while, but this one looks really good!

  • Ashleigh Paige
    May 7, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Woohoo, you gave it roughly the same rating I did! I knocked it down a star because something Crisco said after he tried to pressure Cassie into sex rubbed me the wrong way (“You hit me because you’re a virgin” came across as “People who aren’t virgins don’t care who they screw” to me) and some elements were overly predictable, but it was still beyond enjoyable and I’m ready for the second book.

    Also, the other lead character’s story. Wow. That was the part that really messed with my head because I didn’t know if he had the truth concerning the soldiers or if Cassie did. That’s one twist I didn’t see coming very well.

  • Linda W
    May 7, 2013 at 10:29 am

    I was holding my breath until you wrote, “Well, folks, I’m thrilled to tell you that The 5th Wave is the real deal.” Yay!!! Glad you loved the ride.

  • Serenity
    May 7, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Oh my god, this book sounds so amazing, I need to own it RIGHT NOW.

  • Eliza
    May 7, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    The more I hear about this book, the more I want to read it. However, I’ve been a little leery about the hype. Now, after reading your review, I want to read it more.

    As others have commented on, not loving the love story angle. Can’t we have a male and female* teaming up as partners/survivors/co-workers without there being a romance between them?

    *Not being heteronomative, just a comment on how male/female relationships are portrayed in a huge chunk of books and other media out there.

  • de Pizan
    May 7, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    This sounds awesome. Although I have to admit I’m pedantically getting hung up on this passage “Good-bye, California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, British Columbia.” If the tidal wave destroys 60 miles inland, none of these places would be gone. Lots of major cities and huge losses of population gone yes (especially in Alaska where Fairbanks would be the only large city left); but 60 miles in wouldn’t take out even half of the total area of these states/province. Then you have Oregon, where all the major cities and the majority of the population is in the middle of the state and not one of those cities would be hit.

    I did say it was pedantic. 🙂

  • Kendra
    May 7, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    From the first 54 pages I thought this was going to be a completely different story– I have to say that was my favorite part and I was really looking forward to 500 pages of solitary survivalism and the mental and emotional tension that comes with it. After that I was pretty disappointed with Cassie’s story based on my personal expectations and preferences.

    Start Spoiler:

    I was totally creeped out after a certain revelation and he went all “you will never escape me, I can’t let you leave”. It would have been more interesting if she had gotten the better of him, or stayed with him because of PTSD/Stockholm Syndrome instead of twu luv.

    End Spoiler

  • Kendra
    May 7, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Also my bookstore was definitely selling this last weekend. I wasn’t going to be the one to tell them.. xD

  • Mel@thedailyprophecy
    May 7, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    The more I read about this book, the more excited I get! I love the concept of the 5 waves. I haven’t read a book about aliens yet, but this definitely is going to be the first one! 😀 Great review.


  • Thea
    May 7, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Gin – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    AnimeJune – DUUUUDE. I hear you. I’m always leery of the next Hunger Games/The Passage/whatever comparison, but I truly loved this book (with only a few reservations). The romance is definitely of the extraneous variety, BUT I do like that Cassie is self-aware and points out the ridiculousness (plus, it doesn’t detract her from her end goal). Made it all a bit easier to stomach, IMO.

    Jill – I honestly can’t say I’ve done the release day bookstore thing in a while (I’m definitely all about the preorder online for print or ebook!), but this is definitely the kind of book I would have gone out of my way to my local store for! I hope you get your hands on a copy tonight 🙂

    Liz – Totally hear ya on the dystopia fatigue – but hopefully THE 5TH WAVE restores your faith in the subgenre!

    Ashleigh – Yeah, that part bothered me too. The fact that Crisco is just thirteen and clearly has issues I think made it not ok in my mind, but in keeping with his character – but I can definitely understand your downgrade based on that! And holy heck YES the other main character’s narrative was amazing and definitely kept me on my toes. When he first got to the camp, I remember flipping back to the earlier part with Cassie JUST to make sure I had everyone straight – the buildup of tension and unreliability was fantastic. (AND when that character and his cohorts figure out what’s REALLY going on? Amazing – and definitely not what I was expecting, either!)

    Linda – It was a helluva ride. I hope you partake, too 🙂

    Serenity – WELL if you don’t buy a copy, we are going to give one away on Saturday 😉

    Eliza – The hype for this book was formidable, indeed! But…in my mind at least, the book lived up to expectations. That said, the romance angle bothered me, and I would love to read a YA dystopian novel that doesn’t play the predictable romance card. Blah.

    de Pizan – Well if it helps, the entire worldwide communication network has been compromised so there’s no real telling WHAT has been wiped out. The 60 mile marker is also – I assume! – an estimate from a sixteen year old girl with a tendency towards the dramatic in her journal narrative. :mrgreen:

    Kendra – YES, I agree. When the narrative changed I was completely thrown. I was expecting this to be Cassie’s story alone, and I definitely hear you re: the yearning for mental and emotional tension. That said, once I got used to the changing characters, I was into them (especially that one other guy whose name I won’t mention).


    Interesting! I didn’t see Cassie’s reaction to Evan as true love – she makes the decision to leave him, pulls a gun on him, and I believed that she would use it. More disturbing to me was Evan’s transformation and admitted creepy “love” for Cassie. The entire romance angle felt manufactured to me and like something the author was obligated to include in order to tick the necessary boxes to fill genre/marketing expectations. Ugh.


    And ooooh boy, your bookstore is breaking the rules! I have to imagine there was an embargo date on this book, given the hype/campaign behind it! I’m sure no one is complaining though :p

    Mel – This is a good place to start getting into apocalypse by way of alien invaders, definitely! I hope you enjoy it.

  • Carole
    May 8, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Hi, I just noticed this review and wondered if you would like to link it in to the current monthly collection of books that people loved on Carole’s Chatter. This is the link There are already over 20 books linked in that you might be interested in. It would be great if you came on over. Cheers

  • The Hipster Owl's Bookshelf
    May 21, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    I came across a complimentary booklet with the first chapters at my local Barnes & Noble. Must say I fell in love with the premise after reading just the first sentence. Looking forward to this one indeed!

  • Stacy Clarkson
    May 23, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    I went out and got me some new reading gasses ,time to break them in… 🙂

  • Jennifer
    May 27, 2013 at 3:08 am

    @Ashleigh : I was more supposing Crisco implied that a no-virgin would give him a cold shoulder, ie won’t be defensive because she wouldn’t care.
    I surprisingly liked the chapter when we get Evan’s POV. Even if I found the romance quite disturbing sometimes (the guy was really Edward-like), the fact that Cassie also doesn’t accept it at face value meant she also rejects part of it. So I was sadder for him bc he didn’t express him in a good way and didn’t really make her fall for him though he’s got feelings for her.
    I wished I liked better the book, I didn’t feel that concerned for the characters except Evan, especially since I was convinced from really early that Cassie, her brother and Ben will make alive at the end of the book and that I was uncertain about Evan.
    There’s lot of action and military stuff but some could have been shortened and

    when I think about the waves, 4rth and 5th don’t really make sense since they are quite risky to the others and aren’t that efficient, even if for the humans they seem quite scary… especially if it’s a plan older than 2 000 years… I was less than impressed by this revelation since that meant they could have picked better times (randomly : world war I or II, Middle-Age or when humans were fewer and with rudimentary skills)

    But it was a good book, with interesting twists and I do like when the author suggests things to the readers and the characters also wonder, it’s annoying when characters are completely oblivious when the readers want to shout possibilities that are quite obvious.

  • Solomon
    July 4, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    magnificent points altogether, you just received a emblem new reader.
    What may you recommend about your put up that you simply made some days in the past?
    Any sure?

    Take a look at my site: Solomon

  • http://surfbirds.com
    July 27, 2013 at 8:04 am

    Right now I’m looking for a really good set of slippers for my little girl which will really complement her clothing, it’d be so
    helpful if children’s clothing shops marketed dresses that were already matched with shoes

    Here is my web blog … Karl :: http://surfbirds.com ::

  • Book Review: The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave #1) by Rick Yancey | Novel Society
    March 6, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    […] good. It kept me on the edge of my seat and it just rocked. Rating: 5 out of 5 Other Reviews: The Book Smugglers l YA Book Central l Reading […]

  • Darwin
    October 25, 2017 at 11:46 am

    They had been off and operating the same day!

  • ohkjgfnxse
    July 29, 2019 at 3:56 pm


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.