This review is spoiler-free for your convenience.
Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave series is the young adult sci-fi/dystopian I was searching for a long time without being aware of it. I succumbed to the internet hype when I realised it combined my favourite elements of alternating first-person narratives, cross-country journeys through a post-alien invasion world and a great ensemble of characters.
I read the first two books of the series, The 5th Wave and The Infinite Sea, within a few days allowing for my 9-to-5 day-job and basic personal care and hygiene. I read them interchangeably in audio and e-book formats for those times I was preoccupied and/or too lazy to flip the pages on my iPad, but still harboured an incessant need to progress through the books. I have since purchased them in hardback, as I do with all books I classify as my all-time favourites.
On the face of it, The 5th Wave seems like an average YA read. Its kick-ass heroine, Cassie, has been separated from her baby brother (Sammy) and is surviving the dystopian wasteland with equal parts skill, snark and smarts to be reunited with him. Aliens have invaded earth with strategically timed ‘waves’ consisting of electromagnetic pulses, natural disasters and pestilence. No one can be trusted as the aliens look just like humans. This makes Cassie’s interactions with our male leads, Evan and Ben and an interesting rag-tag group of secondary characters intriguing, to say the least.
What distinguishes the series from its counterparts is its razor-sharp plot, strong narratives and a good dollop of humour in the face of the crippling unknown that keeps the pages turning.
The Good: The complex narrative in the first book with its jumping timelines, or flashbacks if you will, succinctly filled me in on background of the world we meet Cassie in, but still kept me guessing about the greater nature of the invasion and the forthcoming waves. Facets of it were predictable at times but it only fuelled the tension, because while I knew the outcome of a certain scenario I was lost as to how it will shape the future narrative.
Also, the various characters intersected/collided very well and the dynamics between them, more so in the second book, were brilliantly envisioned.
The Bad: The first book is easily the better of the two with a more fast-paced and engrossing narrative, while the second felt a lot like a mere filler with the major plot bombs to be detonated in the final instalment which is to be released in 2016.
Further, in the second book, Ringer, a secondary character we are introduced to in the first book, gets promoted to something of second female lead and a large chunk of the book is from her point of view. I did not feel a connection with her in the first place and therefore found it less engaging and tiresome to complete the second half of the sequel, given that I found the pace slow anyway.
Finally, I love an overarching romance to almost all my reads, but this one happened way too quickly and impulsively for my liking. Most importantly, it felt a little out of character for Cassie who is depicted as the epitome of caution and, for good reason, paranoia. Sure she had her suspicions but I still felt it was in the realm of what the cool kids call insta-love.
The Ugly: I have to wait until 2016 for the third, and possible final, instalment of the series. I don’t know whether this is a series or a trilogy. That being said, I have been fortunate enough to discover the series this year so the waiting time has been reduced significantly.
There is going to be a movie! Okay, maybe not so ugly. Chloe Grace Moretz has been cast as Cassie and I could not be happier about it. I think she will reflect Cassie’s strength, spunk and vulnerability quite well.
Nick Robinson of Melissa and Joey fame has been cast as Ben and I am a little apprehensive about that. I was opting for Jake Abel or Jake Abel adjacent. Ben is a soldier for all intensive purposes and I just cannot envision Robinson as him. That being said, I have only seen Robinson as the adorkable Ryder Scanlan so it is not like I am making an informed assessment about his suitability. Also, the audio book narrator, Brandon Espinoza, sounds a lot like Robinson so it may not be a total miscast.
In conclusion, the 5th Wave series is a great read, addictive to the point you can devour it on autopilot, as I did. It is action-packed with a great assortment of main characters to root for and even better dynamics between them to revel in. If you want some comparisons, then think love child of The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games brought up by the Divergent series.
Basically, it has all the making of your next YA indulgence. So put on your tinfoil hats and check it out. Let us know what you think.