Book Club In Session: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

timthumbAs we’ve feared, from the moment E.T. struck fear in the hearts of every child on the planet, the aliens will not come in peace.  And when they do, they will come in waves.

Lauren:  When people are left without their electronics to divert their attention from all of the dead bodies that have piled up during the first four waves of the alien apocalypse, there’s not a lot to distract from impending doom.  Just read Cassie’s inner monologue, she’ll tell you all about it.  Though she’s only one character we follow, her voice is what introduces us to this lonely world as she works towards keeping a promise to her little brother.

Oh, and there’s teen romance.

Disclaimer: As our book club discussion, this write up will have spoilers throughout.  You’ve been warned!  If you’d like something without spoilers, then check out Heather’s solo review here.

Heather:  First off, I think it’s a little dramatic to claim E.T. struck fear into the hearts of every child.  I personally thought E.T. was adorable, with his little wrinkly body – almost like a hybrid alien/monkey/giraffe/puppy dog.  In fact, it’s too bad that the aliens in this story didn’t look like him!  But I think we should come back to how the aliens looked later.

First, you mentioned that Cassie is just one of the characters narrating the story – there’s also her high school crush Ben, her new love interest Evan Walker, and her little brother Sam.  Am I missing anyone?  I’d be interested in knowing which perspective you liked best, given that Cassie could be a little bit frustrating at times (at least I thought so…).  Some of the criticism I’ve read argued the various perspectives didn’t really add much to the book, and made it feel a little disjointed.  Especially Sam’s perspective, given that he is only five.  I actually liked having the breaks every so often to hear from someone other than Cassie though.  In fact, I would have liked to have heard a little bit more from Evan that we were given.

Lauren:  I honestly didn’t have any problems with Cassie as a character and would have been more than happy with her being the only narrator.  Though I will say I was frustrated with her for trusting Evan the way she did after she had just killed a soldier just in case, and bringing attention to this herself doesn’t completely rectify that she went against everything we know about her.  Maybe had she been the only narrator then this would have been fleshed out further, but that’s not the route the author took.  After reading a good portion of the book with Cassie, it was a little awkward to suddenly switch to a new character’s perspectives, and I suddenly feel all the more grateful that A Song of Ice and Fire series is broken up by paragraph.  I just think the switches should have been introduced way sooner, especially with Silencer/Evan following her.  Let’s face it, there was no doubt when Evan arrived to save Cassie that he was the silencer that had been following her, so might as well have done us all a favor and started with his perspective earlier to make there be somewhat more of a basis to form their relationship on.

Not that stalking is healthy, but I think having more from his point of view would have really helped bring more depth to the struggle he had going on mentally, as well as why he was so drawn to Cassie.  On the other hand, Ben didn’t need this much help since we can all understand the crush that Cassie had on him, which felt far more real than the relationship with Evan, and I am glad that we got to see his character as well as it informs on the overall story of what the aliens are doing.  Evan might look like Clark Kent, but he has a while to go to make his relationship as believable as the other part of the triangle.

Heather:  I agree with you that we should have started hearing Evan’s perspective far sooner than we did.  He didn’t even have to give his name away, he could have stayed the unidentified silencer until the big reveal later.  You are right; it would have really helped the reader understand why exactly he found himself so taken with Cassie.  You would have thought that after he rescues her, she would have put an end to any feelings pretty darn quickly.  After all, she was rude, belligerent, suspicious (rightly so), and just plain mean to him.  I’m not really sure how that combination ended up reeling in Evan even more so!  It just felt pretty forced that Evan could continue to even like being around Cassie given the way she treated him, and more of his internal thought process could have clarified that a little bit.

One thing I had issues with was that Evan at one point tells Cassie that she saved him.  I just thought this was kind of weird of him to say, given that even after saying this he continued to go out every night on what we can only assume were his human murder sprees.  If she really and truly changed him like he said, wouldn’t he have perhaps slowed down with the killings?  I guess he was just slow to realize that he couldn’t play both sides of the field, but if this is the case I’m not exactly sure how he thought she saved him then, given his contradictory behavior.

Lauren:  Duh, she saved him through the magic of hair care therapy.  Ladies take note, make those boys shampoo your do after you’ve been in the woods by yourself for weeks and probably have bugs all up in there.

I can agree with that issue with Evan, but I’d say that my biggest complaint is that I just wish that the different characters’ narrative styles had been more differentiated than they were. It didn’t really take away from my enjoyment of the story, but Yancey definitely has a problem with getting a little repetitive.  For example, he will jump to a new character, often starting in third person for the first paragraph before switching back to first.  This was cool the first time around because it provides a different understanding about that character’s mindset that maybe they might not even be aware of themselves.  But Yancey employed this so often that it didn’t really seem to have a purpose.  He’d also use the same imagery for different characters, chess being one of these, and this just seemed lazy.  But my least favorite thing was how often he would write choppy sentences that were supposed to battle each other, an example being: “I can’t trust him.  I have to trust him.  I can’t believe.  I have to believe.”  Yancey spelled things out like this for us all the time.

One last thing, never repeatedly write things like “he had been in me.”  No matter the age of your audience and what you intended with these words, everyone will be giggling.

Heather:  I also have to agree with the short, choppy sentences.  You would think that if this was Cassie’s stream of conscious (or that of any other character for that matter) that it would be more rambling and flowing, not these short, staccato thoughts.

Anyway, clearly neither you nor I were surprised when Evan turned out to be the silencer.  Was there anything in the story that you didn’t see coming?  That is, do you think the story was original, or is it a ripoff of all the other post-apocolytic/zombie/vampire/alien/killer robot books that have been surfacing as of late?  Was it anything like Stephanie Meyer’s The Host?  I heard that it was basically a duplicate of that story, and I haven’t read it.

Lauren:  Even though I was never surprised by anything in the story, from Evan being the Silencer to not trusting the military,  I wouldn’t really say that this was a rip-off so much as just a story that uses familiar story points in its own way.  From what I can remember about The Host, which I read numerous years ago and have since forgotten most of it, the aliens did take over our bodies and wear them around, and the main character was that of an alien whose human host was fighting back.  There was a love triangle of some sort.  And a cave…  So there are definitely similarities, but it’s not like Stephanie Meyer came up with those ideas either.

Heather:  Well did you think it was a good idea to have the aliens assume human form for the purpose of this book?  I mean, obviously the “sleeper” aliens needed to, or else the element of surprise would not be with them when they started killing humans.  Now that I think of it, I suppose the “sleeper” aliens were the only ones actually on Earth, weren’t they?  I don’t know, it just seemed like the aliens weren’t necessarily very well conceptualized, in terms of their backstory, their form, their technology, and everything else.

Lauren:  The whole idea of this book was that they were here all along learning about us and the author wanted to tell a story that wasn’t all Independence Day or War of the Worlds or anything of that nature, so it’s pretty much a necessity to have them assimilate into society.  And he had that whole theme of trust going on in different ways for all characters involved.  But really, what it comes down to is Evan.  He had to be conflicted with what he was doing, which he attributes to being human for so long before the other part of him was born.  More importantly, no one is going to swoon over him if he looks like an insectoid or other non-human otherworldly being.  This is a romance first and sci-fi story second, if you can even call it that.

Heather:  That’s true.  I’m not necessarily upset by the lack of information surrounding the alien species, because I was only in it for the romance anyway.  Give me a good teenage love story and I’m a happy camper.  Which is why I was so surprised to see the author was male.  Given his focus on crushes and mysterious hunky men over the sci-fi aspects, I was expecting a female author.  Shame on me for stereotyping!

Lauren:  And shame on me too.  I really thought the author was a girl as well, which is silly because there are plenty of boys out there crushing on Clark Kent too.  But for me I think it mostly had to do with the style of writing in the sense that it felt similar to my own voice in many instances.

Heather:  Oh, well it makes sense then that I got so annoyed with Cassie’s voice. :P

Lauren:  …I hate you…

Heather:  Rude.  Well, I guess that brings us to what we think is going to happen next.  The author left us with sort of a cliff-hanger, not knowing whether Evan died with the massive explosion of the military base.  And apparently there are two more books in the pipeline, so we know the story will be continuing.  I am hoping we get more into the aliens’ backstory, and I’m also hoping for some love-triangle drama from Cassie, Evan, and Ben (because I am assuming Evan is alive).

Lauren:  There’s no way that Evan is dead considering Cassie loves him so deeply, though her feelings will probably shift and become more confused now that her fantasy boy is back within reach.  Plus Ben has that whole relationship going with her younger brother.  You know that would make you swoon.  Too bad Ringer is there…

Question for you right now: If the aliens don’t have corporeal forms, why did they need to invade our planet again?

Heather:  Hmm, for some reason I didn’t think they were always just a state of being.  I thought that they were originally attached to a body of some sort and then when their planet was dying they detached themselves from their bodies while they were searching for a new planet.  And they didn’t want to live out the next part of their lives as humans because it was beneath them.  But that doesn’t explain why they couldn’t just go live on some uninhabited planet and keep to themselves.  This is why I wanted to know more of the aliens’ backstory!  So much is unexplained and just doesn’t make sense right now.  Hopefully this will all be clarified in the coming books.

Lauren:  Hm… well I like your remembrance of the story so I hope that is the case.  All I can remember is Evan saying that it was like they were downloaded into the human bodies, and then next thing you know he’s inside her.  [Giggle] But again, I will reiterate that I forget books very quickly.

Heather:  I forget quickly too.  Bet the aliens don’t have this problem…

Lauren:  Well if they’re out there planning their invasion of our planet then I doubt they have time for reading anyway, unless they’re reading books over our shoulders!  Or from inside our bodies just waiting to take over!  …I just watched Dark Skies so I may be a little irrationally scared of the extra terrestrial possibility right about now.  Speaking of, if you want a scary alien story then definitely go for that one.  If you want teen romance, then The Fifth Wave is the route for you.

Heather and Lauren’s Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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