Goodreads synopsis: 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. 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, until Cassie meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan may be her only hope for rescuing her brother and even saving herself. Now she must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up. Cassie Sullivan gets up.
This book took me a long time to read only because I’m getting paid to write up a chapter-by-chapter summary for a graduate education class. If I hadn’t been doing that, I probably would have read this in a day. I absolutely loved this book. It was full of twists and mysteries that had me totally hooked from the very beginning. I was actually surprised that I liked this book so much because I normally hate when the point of view bounces between characters, but somehow Yancey did a great job with that. Cassie is possibly one of the most well-written characters I’ve ever come across. She felt so real to me. I knew I was going to love this book when Cassie mentions her stash of tampons. Finally a writer mentions the fact that girls have periods! I never would have expected this from a male author, but he did it. (I’m looking glaring at you, Suzanne Collins.) And right after that, Cassie says she still carries her cellphone around, even though it won’t even turn on anymore. That detail made me weirdly happy because I know I would do the same thing in an alien invasion–I just couldn’t leave it behind no matter how stupid it was to bring it along. That’s what I liked about Cassie, that throughout this whole book and all the trauma she went through, she was always a teenager. She was always thinking about her high school crush even though the world had gone to hell. She was a real person.
(MAJOR SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON.)
This is going to sound harsh, but I was really glad that Evan died at the end. If she had ended up with him, I probably would have liked this book a lot less. Like, he is an alien. I was afraid there would be some sort of cliché “After all this time of being obsessed with Ben, I’ve got a new guy now and he’s, well, very interesting.” You could say that the suggestion at the end that she’s with Ben now is cliché as well, but all it is is a suggestion. It isn’t said for sure that they’re actually going to be together and stay together. (Although, I guess I’ll find out in the sequel.) And that’s better than Evan anyway.
The only thing that didn’t add up for me was the fact that, upon waking up after being rescued by Evan, Cassie didn’t immediately suspect him of being an alien. Her mind was trained to assume guilty until proven innocent, and since that can’t really be proven, just assume guilty. I can only contribute this to being instantly distracted by his good looks or feeling woozy from just having been unconscious for a while, but I still felt like she should have been panicking a little more. And of course, she eventually got there, but it wasn’t soon enough in my opinion. I was also very much bothered by the line, “…hiding behind a tree like a girl.” It’s very obvious why that makes me mad, but it was the only time that I felt like there was anything anti-feminist in this book and, in a world that is slowly unlearning its sexism, one bad sentence is pretty good.
I am very rarely interested in sequels but I will definitely be picking up the next one in this series, The Infinite Sea. I’d recommend The 5th Wave to absolutely anyone, even if you’re not normally a sci-fi fan. Sci-fi is normally too complicated of a genre for me, like my brain can’t keep up with it, but this was so excellent. Good job, Yancey.
Update: Okay, I guess Evan didn’t actually die?? What the heck??