The 5th Wave
The AHML Teen Department is pleased to present a book review from our Summer Intern, Mary Ellen Podmokly:
First, I have to say that I was not a fan of Rick Yancey’s The Monstrumologist. I wanted to like it; the novel did receive a Michael L. Printz Honor and I tend to trust award panels. After reading The Monstrumologist I lost my faith. I liken my reading experience of it to a performance of Peter Pan in which the audience has failed to revive Tinker Bell. You can therefore understand how my initial attitude towards the hype surrounding Yancey’s The 5th Wave was scornful.
I also have to mention that I am a scaredy-cat. While I can read about the horrors of war the only kind of aliens I want to encounter are of the E.T. variety. Even E.T. freaked me out until his big eyes won me over. The aliens of The 5th Wave aren’t cute. Their plan is to eradicate humankind and stay. Yancey warns in the first pages of the book: “ALIENS ARE STUPID. 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…You know, the aliens we imagine, the kind of aliens we’d like to attack us, human aliens…There’s no way to know for sure, but I bet the Others knew about the human aliens we’d imagined. And I bet they thought it was funny as hell. They must have laughed their asses off. If they have a sense of humor…or asses. They must have laughed the way we laugh when a dog does something totally cute and dorky. Oh, those cute, dorky humans! They think we think like they do! Isn’t that adorable? Forget about flying saucers and little green men and giant mechanical spiders spitting out death rays. Forget about epic battles with tanks and fighter jets and the final victory of us scrappy, unbroken, intrepid humans over the bug-eyed swarm…The truth is, once they found us, we were toast.” Neil Diamond’s “Heartlight” is the furthest thing from your mind when you come to grips with Yancey’s premise that people are finally prey and not predators.
I enjoyed The 5th Wave despite my initial misgivings and trepidation. Maybe “enjoy” isn’t quite the right word though. The book is about bare survival after the first four waves of an alien engendered apocalypse. This is a world in which truly horrible things have happened. Life for protagonists Cassie and Ben is grim. Their sense of security, control, and innocence has been lost along with their families. They know more about the reality of being killed and being killers than any teenager should have to understand. And the terrible anticipation of the inevitable fifth wave is enough to drive the most mentally sound individual crazy.
The only thing keeping Cassie sane is the search for her little brother Sam, who was taken away in a busload of children. When she meets Evan after an alien “Silencer” tries to kill her she knows she should question his story. But she’s tired of being alone on her bleak quest.
The only thing keeping Ben alive, tortured as he is by memories of leaving his little sister to die, is his desire for vengeance. And a promise to a little boy named Nugget.
Riveting twists and turns in the plot allow Cassie’s and Ben’s storylines to converge in a thrilling, if not satisfying (after all there has to be room for a sequel), end. Both teenagers and adults will find themselves sucked into this David versus Goliath story.