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edge staff writer


The 5th Wave' powerful and compelling

May 8, 2013
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Young adult book quality reading for all ages

While it is important to make a distinction when it comes to young adult fiction, there is no doubt that YA literature is at its absolute best when it blurs that line between 'young' and 'adult.' Just because a book's primary audience skews younger doesn't mean that it can't be well-written. It doesn't mean that it has to be condescending in any way. Kids know when they are being talked down to; the best YA stuff always respects the intelligence of its audience.

Make way for the next big thing in young adult fiction. 'The 5th Wave' (Putnam, $18.99) is coming.

Cassiopeia Sullivan known to everyone but her parents as Cassie is your typical teenage girl living a typical teenager's life. That is, until the Others arrive. An alien spacecraft enters into orbit around Earth, causing massive confusion and chaos among the world's population. It sits and waits for days until it doesn't.

The first wave is a massive electromagnetic pulse that completely destroys the electronic infrastructure of the entire planet, plunging the world into darkness and confusion. The second wave is both simple and catastrophic; a massive metal rod is dropped from the ship onto the Earth, aimed precisely at the breaking point of a massive tectonic fault. The ensuing quakes and enormous tidal waves quickly and brutally eliminate those anywhere near the ocean, exponentially slicing the world's population.

The third wave is biological; a wasting disease colloquially called the Blood Plague. Transmitted through birds, it devours its victims from the inside out with a mortality rate upwards of 97 percent. This serves to reduce the world's population to the smallest fraction of the seven billion it once was. And then the fourth wave, when the Others come to claim their prize. They can look just like humansright up until they kill you.

This is the world in which Cassie now lives. She is isolated and alone, struggling to survive and holding on to a promise. It's a promise she will likely prove completely incapable of keeping, and yet she soldiers on. She made a promise to her little brother; she will keep it or die trying.

Author Rick Yancey has created something wonderful here. One could say that the 'end of the world' trope has been done to death in fiction. Ditto with alien invasions. But Yancey has brought the two together in a way that feels exciting and new. 'The 5th Wave' is somehow both sweeping and intimate, emotionally heartfelt and brutally violent.

It is a thrilling read.

Yancey's characters are infused with a sense of genuine reality. Watching them react as the story unfolds around them elicits real feelings because they are real people. That's where the true power of this book lies; the honesty inherent to the characters that populate its pages.

There's the struggle between good and evil. There are solitary heroes, alone even when surrounded by others. There's high-octane action and powerful introspection. Terror and tenderness abound sometimes within the space of a chapter, or even on a single page. Yancey takes the reader down multiple paths, paths that seemingly can't possibly intersect, yet somehow do just that.

'The 5th Wave' is an outstanding example of YA fiction. It is thought-provoking and challenging while still maintaining strong storytelling and eminent readability. Rick Yancey has created a fantastic book that - while bearing the label 'young adult' - can be thoroughly enjoyed by readers of all ages.

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