As disappointed as I was with the filmmakers for their failed attempt at adapting my guilty pleasure novel, The 5th Wave, into a decent movie, I still had the book series to fall back on for comfort. At least I thought I did. It turns out the movie wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to this series; the worst was yet to come.
I hate to say it, but this series really falls apart in The Last Star. It was already starting to tiptoe onto shaky ground at the ending of book 2 as the big bad of the books reveals that we’re continuing to fail to grasp what is really happening: it’s not aliens. Well, it is aliens, but it’s not aliens in the way we think it’s aliens, so it is aliens, but it’s not aliens. Or something. Whatever the case, Ringer has been given superhuman powers by the enemy, because why not.
As much as I questioned whether anyone understood what was going on in the science fiction elements of this story, I brushed my pessimism aside because I have a little girl inside of me who will unfortunately put up with more than she should when stupid, melodramatic teenage romance is involved. And there is a lot of it in this series. Cassie spends plenty of her time writing things like: “Ben was waiting to pounce the minute I went back inside. I knew he was waiting to pounce because the minute I went back inside, he pounced” as she is constantly preoccupied with her potential boyfriends. And I giggled along, thinking my teenage commentary track would definitely be a similar, snarky, self-aware pat on the back if I had a journal that was also part of a popular book series as well. Oh Cassie, we’re so silly and clever. You go on and sass everyone with or without adequate reasoning.
My sister, who also read this series with me, would say that I was being too lenient with an annoying character because I saw my sarcastic self in her writing, and about half way through The Last Star I started to understand what she was saying. It was like a switch flipped. Instead of chuckling as my head shook at Cassie’s reactions to young love, I started to smell the garbage in lines like “Sometimes Ben’s like a bracing mountain stream I dip my toe into,” or “My face is hot. I’m thinking of the night I landed on the shores of Evanland and planted my flag upon that sculpted beach,” or “His eyes drank me in. Oh, the Evanness of it all, how he gulps down my presence like a guy stumbling upon an oasis in the desert.” Who says things like that? People who deserve to be punched in the face, that’s who.
As the threats to our main group become convoluted and confusing, so too did the relationships. We know where Evan stands with his feelings for Cassie (though his part in the books continues to get smaller and smaller), but it’s hard to tell how Cassie feels about anyone as her writing starts to seesaw in confusion and indecisiveness. Ben isn’t really any easier to read in his feelings towards Cassie and evolving loyalty to Ringer, and now the fun of the love shape has been taken from me, too. Great!
As the book went on everything got more and more frustrating. So little actually happens in the story, and what did happen was repetitive and hollow. I kept finding myself asking why certain things were happening and why the author made the choices he did, and I can’t come up with good explanations. Nor could Yancey for all the questions raised intentionally or not. It just didn’t feel like he knew what to do with his own story, so when he did (through what honestly felt like theft of another recent young adult trilogy’s ending) finally make choices they were weak, unsatisfying, and lacking in payoff, with an ending that is completely undeserved.
Just incase you couldn’t tell, I was completely frustrated with how far The Last Star falls when considering how much I enjoyed The 5th Wave. Something that was mostly about teenage love in horrible apocalyptic circumstances suddenly reaches outside itself to try and be something so much more, and it fails horribly.