Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Book Review of the 5th Wave by 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.

Series: The 5th Wave (Book 1)

Genre: YA Science-Fiction Apocalyptic 
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers; Mti edition (May 7, 2013)
Page Count: 474 pages

I'd watched the book trailer for this novel years ago and I've wanted to read it since. My friend got it a year or so before me and didn't like it, but I wanted to read it before the film came out, so I decided to give it a go. Yeah, it's probably the worst novel I've read in a while.

The Plot: The actual plot is what made me interested about this story. An alien apocalypse where humanity is nearly wiped out by four waves of attack and humanity fighting back, struggling to survive sounded pretty high concept, chilling, and a fun read. The execution of this in the novel was poor. 

It had a strange prologue which never gets totally explained. In fact, I forgot about it until my friend brought it up weeks after I read the book.

The book starts in the present and for the first I'd say fifth to a quarter of this unnecessarily long due to bad pacing book is spent switching from the present and the past as Cassie is telling you what all happened in the past waves giving this jarring and choppy form of nonlinear storytelling. This can be pulled off (look at Lost or Once Upon a Time or Arrow), but it was badly done here. Why didn't the writer just start the story when the waves started? It would have been way more interesting, because you'd be experiencing it in the moment Cassie did. With this awkward flashback thing, I felt jerked around and not as emotionally invested as I could have been.

The rest of the book was pretty interesting and exciting, but it moved very slowly up until the end and it was also really tough to get into it when I didn't even like main character ...

The Characters: I can't stand Cassie. I tried to like her. It didn't work. She constantly swears, she has her head in the gutter, she's whiny, mean, impulsive, and just plain annoying. Her love for her brother is supposed to be redeeming, but not even that could make me like her. I get that she's gone through this horrible trauma, but come on, Katniss didn't get this messed up and she lost her dad when she was a little kid and lived her whole life in an oppressive environment. It's neat that her name is short for Cassiopeia and she reads but those are the only things interesting about her.

I like her dad and her brother, the only two people on earth Cassie seems to actually be nice to. She's not even that nice to her friends. Sammy's point of view is way funner to be in than Cassie's.

A little ways into the book, the point of view switches to Zombie, but you have no idea who this person is or if it's Cassie actually until you slowly figure out by interior monologue that it's not her. It's so confusing. The only way you know the point of view is switching is because of some black pages between chapters. I like Zombie a lot more than Cassie. He was way more likable and just a better person all around.

Only four of the side characters were of some interest. Most of the others were annoying or just not developed enough to really define. Evan was an interesting character, though I don't know why his looks had to be hyped up so much. Manicured nails and Brawny Towel boy model. Reznik was so mean and I absolutely despised him. Vosch grew more interesting at the story went. Ringer was a neat character that I like how the 5th Wave film developed more on. She wasn't expanded on enough in the book.

The Setting: The setting is in the United States, but what with all of the destruction, it's like a different world. It's nothing fantastic, but it's interesting traveling in the deserted midwest territory and the military base Camp Haven with creepy hospitals. The alien elements are what make it interesting such as the Silencers or the drones and the giant alien ship. They give the setting an overall eerie feel.

Epic Things: I didn't find many things I'd consider epic. The Wonderland program was interesting I guess. It maps one's psyche. I also really liked Bear, Sammy's Bear Cassie toted around to bring back to Sammy.

The Theme: One actually positive thing about the book is that it did have a lot of neat lines that made you think. Here are some of my favorites:

How do you rid the Earth of humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.

~Cassie from the 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

I thought this was a neat concept thinking about what divides us from animals or this case aliens. Morality and virtues separate us.
Cruelty isn't a personality trait. Cruelty is a habit.~ Cassie from the 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

I thought this was really deep and true. I also liked Evan's quote about how humans are like a mayfly here today and gone tomorrow. It's true. We need to make the most of our time since we don't know when the sand runs out.

Content Cautions: Gosh the content of this book. Let's start with the swearing. *let's long scroll unfurl in front of me* I can handle cursing, but this is just excessive. I counted 58 usages of h***, 39 usages of d***, 20 usages of a**, 26 usages of sh**, 2 usages of d*****bag, 7 usages of b***h, 10 usages of b*****d, 3 usages of god****, 5 f-bombs, and numerous instances of blasphemy. That's a bit much, wouldn't you say?

There are also numerous unnecessary sexual reference and why did one of the characters have to get shot in the butt so there had to be a brief nudity scene? I mean, come on, really? Cassie may had sex with Evan. It was a bit unclear.

Since this is an apocalyptic story a lot of people die via dying or disease or being shot. One character is choked to death.

What We Can Take Away For Our Writing:

1.) The Main Character Didn't Work - If you don't have a main character you can root for then your book doesn't hold much merit. Cassie constantly annoyed me throughout the story and I couldn't cheer for her at all. When Evan finally called out her bad behavior, I thought, "Thank you! Finally someone notices!" I don't get what Evan sees in her and Cassie eyes him like some kind of perv. She supposedly knows karate, but doesn't use any of it till the end when she could have used it in many instances earlier in the story.

How this can be applied to writing: Making your main character likable is essential to a good story. If you don't like the main character, why keep reading? More on this in my How to Write a Good Main Character post

2.) The Nonlinear Storytelling Didn't Work - Writing a story where you flash between two different time periods can work very effectively, especially if you want a mystery element going on about what happened in the past. Shows like Lost, Arrow, and Once Upon a Time executed this very well, but if one side becomes more interesting than the other than the other the reader can get into the habit of skipping or skimming over the side they don't like, which is what I ended up doing in this book. The waves were far more gripping than what was happening to Cassie.

How this can be applied to writing: Have you ever tried switching time periods in your writing? What I spoke about is also applicable to flashbacks. Make sure to make each side interesting so your reader doesn't lose interest.

3.) Overabundance of Swearing Didn't Work - I don't like swearing in books at all, but I understand a bit for realism. Too many swear words is a put off. It limits your audience and can make your characters seem idiotic and crude. There isn't any other replacement that that character could use other than a swear? Need there be a swear on every single page? My opinion of Cassie plummeted in part to her excessive expletives.

How this can be applied to writing: If you're going to use language in your books please use it in moderation and when it's actually necessary. I get using them if a character is afraid or in extreme pain, but in every instance. It's overkill. Using just "he cursed" or "she swore" is also a good alternative to get the point across with out alienating a portion of your audience.

4.) Choppy Prose Didn't Work - I began to doubt this book was edited at all. The prose was confusing. I had trouble understanding what was going on. The structure was all over the place. The writing keeps mentioning what Cassie didn't do and didn't focus on much as what she did. The writing didn't flow at all and it didn't make for a good reading experience.

How this can be applied to writing: Proper format of prose can make or break a book. It makes the the story easier for the reader to understand and fully absorb. I talk about a lot of them in Ten Rookie Writer Mistakes and How to Mend Them.

5.) Chilling Element Did Work - I did get a sense of impended doom in the whole book. It wasn't totally hopeless, because there was a glimmer of hope, but Yancey did a good job about giving you this constant wariness of what you can believe in and what you can't. It did add a good element of suspense.

How this can be applied to writing: What you don't know is a huge element in propelling your reader to keep reading. Having them feel uncertain and ask questions is one of the prime reasons that your reader is going to keep turning the pages.

In Comparison to the Film: The film is so much better than the book. Oh my gosh. It saved it. I'm so happy this story could be redeem. Check out my full review of the movie over at Geeks Under Grace.

Conclusion: What kept me reading this book is that I wanted to find out what the aliens' evil plan was. I had little to no attachment to the characters. It has so much swearing and sexual references that I wouldn't recommend this to a teenager. This is actually going to get a one star to me. It was just that bad.

About the Author:
Rick Yancey (www.rickyancey.com) is the author of the New York Times bestseller The 5th Wave, The Infinite Sea, several adult novels, and the memoir Confessions of a Tax Collector. His first young-adult novel, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, was a finalist for the Carnegie Medal. In 2010, his novel, The Monstrumologist, received a Michael L. Printz Honor, and the sequel, The Curse of the Wendigo, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. When he isn't writing or thinking about writing or traveling the country talking about writing, Rick is hanging out with his family.

If you liked this post, come back every other Tuesday for book reviews; Friday for tags, character interviews, and link-ups; Saturdays for writing advice and life updates; and Sundays for the Writerly Bundle which includes a new soundtrack piece, vocabulary word, and tea review! To help support my dream to be an author follow this blog, like me on Facebook, watch me on deviantART, and follow me on Pinterest and Twitter. If you want to know more about my books check out them out here. Thank you! :)

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