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Staff Picks: “The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey

What would you do if you were the last human on Earth? What if your new bestie was an M-16 rifle? What if you watched your mother die of a terrible virus and your father get shot in the head by a soldier you thought was there to save you? What if the enemy was impossible to detect and you didn’t know who to trust?

This is the reality that Cassie faces in The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. An ominous spaceship descends and drops an electromagnetic bomb which knocks out the power, then a deadly virus claims the majority of the world population. Things just continue to get worse, because those are only the first few waves. After her brother is taken away on a bus full of other children to a military base and the rest of the adults, including her father, are murdered, Cassie escapes to survive on her own in the woods and is left wondering if she is the last person on Earth, though her goal is to find her younger brother, if she can avoid being killed by a Silencer.

Though this story is action-packed, it’s also character-driven. Though there is plenty of death and gore, what differentiates The 5th Wave from other similar titles is it’s philosophical nature. What does it mean to be human? How do you trust someone? How do you go on if you are the last person on Earth? Readers are invited to contemplate these questions, though the book doesn’t offer easy answers.

Though there is violence, the fear is more psychological. Why it’s scary to have someone put a gun in your face, it’s even more frightening to have the enemy map your mind and discover more about you than you know about yourself. Monsters are scary, but they are even scarier when they look just like you, when there is no way to tell if the person in front of you is like you, or one of them.

The 5th Wave is bound to appeal to a variety of different types of readers. Even those who don’t usually go for sci-fi thrillers or people who think they are done with post-apocalyptic novels will likely enjoy this complex story that is more about humanity being tested by an alien invasion. This will appeal to fans of The Hunger Games; in fact, I’d say it’s likely to be the next YA series to be a hit sensation!


– Molly, YA

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