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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The 5th Wave is set in the aftermath of an alien invasion and paints a fairly realistic picture of how human civilization might be disrupted by bird-borne viruses, electromagnetic pulses, and an artificially induced tsunami.
The 5th Wave emphasizes that, even in the unimaginable tragedy, every person matters.
Positive Role Models
The primary characters in The 5th Wave all find themselves in extreme situations, where they are forced to do things they might never have contemplated in their lives before the alien invasion. Each, however, struggles to do what's right for those they care about, even if it means personal sacrifice. Cassie is determined to be reunited with her little brother. Ben wants salvation after abandoning his sister. Evan wants to protect Cassie at all costs. How they deal with these motivations in the face of harsh reality is what gives the book its thematic heft.
Violence & Scariness
The 5th Wave contains a large amount of violent action. The backstory involves the extermination of billions across the globe: through the effects of artificially induced natural disasters, a horrifically bloody virus, and the infiltration of alien intelligences into the human population. The main characters are in constant danger, and they suffer various injuries. They also kill their perceived enemies at a distance and at close range. A complete catalogue of violent acts in this book is impossible, but it pulls no punches in describing the effects of genocide. Sensitive readers should be wary.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Under constant physical threat, the characters in The 5th Wave have very little time to think about romance or sex. Cassie has a crush on high school football hero Ben Parish, but she's most strongly attracted to mysterious Evan Walker. When she's unconscious, he bathes and changes her from her bloody dirty clothes into a nightgown, something she realizes when she regains consciousness. While she recuperates at his cabin, she can't help staring at his hair, smile, and rear end. There's a lot of kissing and thinking about sex in the parts of the story involving Cassie and Evan: She contemplates whether he had sex with his ex-girlfriend, makes out with him on a bed, and wonders what it would be like to have his hands all over her body. They share an experience of total intimacy, though not intercourse.
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With its characters under such constant stress, the language in The 5th Wave can be fairly harsh at times. There are multiple uses of "hell," "damn," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "piss," and "s--t." Variations of "f--k" are employed a couple of times, in especially intense scenes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The 5th Wave is an emotionally intense science fiction adventure set in the aftermath of an alien invasion that has killed billions. It contains a high level of physical violence, resulting in main characters being seriously injured or forced to kill their perceived enemies at a distance or very up close. Younger, more sensitive readers might find the plotting too intense. The language is sometimes rough, with multiple instances of "hell," "damn," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "piss," and "s--t" and two or three uses of "f--k."
Is It Any Good?
THE 5TH WAVE explores an apocalyptic scenario that still has some juice in it. By making the motives of the alien invaders opaque, author Rick Yancey keeps readers guessing and the level of suspense high throughout the book. Readers will find echoes of The Hunger Games, Ender's Game, and Stephen King's The Stand, but The 5th Wave displays plenty of originality. It's a nail-biter from beginning to end.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.