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  • Writer's pictureDanika Miller

Adaptations! The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The Book

This is not your ordinary alien invasion book, at all.

I’m not someone who particularly enjoys alien invasion stories, and I don’t read a lot of science fiction, so I’m not the one to argue for whether or not it ‘fits’ into those genres. However it had elements of those and I actually enjoyed it, so that’s a big deal to me.

It took me a bit to really get into the book. The story starts off relatively familiar. It picks up as it finishes filling in background information and starts switching perspectives. I blasted through the second half in one night.

The first few waves were a lot like other apocalypse stories. They weren’t totally original, but the psychology behind the waves proves that to be intentional.

So basically there’s an alien invasion and after a few waves of disaster and disease our protagonist, Cassie, leaves her home with her father and brother. Military guys come to their refugee camp and take the kids away, including her brother Sam. Well then they kill her dad, and she’s on her own in a mission to get her brother back. Cassie adopts the idea that only way to stay alive is to stay alone. The fourth wave was alien invasion; they took over the human’s bodies. These agents are picking off survivors and Cassie is shot by one of them. She blacks out and awakens in the cabin of Evan Walker, who heals her up and helps her rescue her brother. Meanwhile, we switch to the POV of Ben Parish, Cassie’s high school crush. He too was taken in by the military and they’re training all the kids in a boot camp. He has his own regiment, Squad 53, and Sam eventually is placed in it. These two plotlines play out and intertwine in the last third of the book.

This is a book that really entrances your emotions. I felt lonely and distraught as Cassie was ripped from her family. I fell in love with lurking hunk, Evan Walker. And I felt strong and inspired as Zombie (Ben Parish) and Squad 53 fought to save humanity. There are also moments of humor and irony in this book that add a level of charm to the characters.

Cassie thinks the military base is actually an alien one, but Zombie and the entire kid army believe they’re human. The whole ‘are they human or are they alien’ lines of cross stories were really complex. Even I wasn't sure if they were alien for sections of the book. The psychology behind figuring it out was fun.

I really enjoyed Cassie as a character. She’s exactly what I would hope to be in such tragedy. She’s tough and smart, but lonely and conflicted.

Evan Walker is creepy but in an innocent awkward way. He lurks because he’s concerned and he’s protective but recognizes Cassie’s strength and capability. I liked his sense of humor and his character has a huge, badly timed, identity struggle.

Ben Parish/ Zombie takes some warming up to but he too is like-able. He’s motivated by guilt and anger, and quickly excels in boot camp. He’s funny but serious. He’s a strong and caring leader and proves to be more than just the cute jock.

Squad 53 is a fun gang of kids each with delicate backstories and baggage. We’re meant to take Ringer as a lead character, and she has a huge role in the sequel, but she was rather bland to me in the first book.

Side note: Jeez, how many times can a guy mention chess? Rick Yancey is obsessed with referencing chess.

The 5th Wave may not be the best of apocalypse, or the most intricate science fiction, it’s not even wholly original. But it is one of the best combinations of YA and sci-fi I’ve yet to encountered, and it is a great coupling of characters and plot. There were a few moments I foresaw, but that only increased anticipation. There were many threads I couldn’t wait to unravel. The strongest element is the shifting truths and psychology behind these occurrences for the characters.

The Movie

Dear lord, this was a ball of gouda, please do not bother.

The first scene started off pretty good. Cassie and her crucifix soldier was a powerful moment and an exciting way to kick off the movie. But then que ‘I was a normal teenager scene.’ We were fed this with an awful 'I was your average high school girl at a party’ scene, I rolled my eyes. She knew Ben Parish and they flirted, she had a red solo cup and awkwardly swayed. This was nothing like the Cassie from the novel. Cassie is not a normal high schooler and that’s very much the reason she survives for so long. In the movie she didn’t debate and fight with her father, she had no pessimistic realist view on the invasion. I don’t know the Cassie they create in the movie. She was nowhere near as smart, tough, or capable. She wasn’t feisty or calculating but instead impulsive and simple minded. She was rather boring, incompetent and predictable. Chloë Grace Moretz did what she could with the script and dialogue, but her potential wasn’t met at all.

The film rushed through the initial waves. Each time, they only focused on how that wave affected Cassie. I had no perspective or idea about how it was affecting the entire world. I got no sense that Cassie was alone or one of the only people left on Earth. It didn’t feel like tons of people died with each wave. When they get to the refugee camp, people are actually in good spirits. THE WHOLE WORLD IS ENDING, but some guy is stick drumming? And there are a ton of people at the camp too, a nice day camp.

Sam, played by Zackary Arthur, had like two lines. He was absolutely precious though, that little boy was so adorable. I’m guessing he didn’t have the acting chops to earn a larger part in the movie.

Ben Parish, played by Nick Robinson, was the best part of this movie. He balanced his quick wit charm with grave authority really well.

I felt like we were expected to bond and understand this gathering of characters in Squad 53, but I couldn’t even tell who was supposed to be who. Boot camp scenes were awkward and inconsistent. Their entire establishment, meant to be cold and soldier forging, is almost laughable.

Evan Walker, Alex Roe, was great acting and appearance wise. Though he spat out lines debating his humanity that we never even had cause to question. Cassie and Evan spent a few days together and then started making out. His betrayal to his people didn’t seem like a tough choice for him. We lose a lot of character and internal conflict from Evan in the film. He wasn’t even the one who shot her leg in this movie! Ugh.

Cassie didn’t figure out that Evan was an alien by being observant and suspicious, instead she was shown his Edward-worthy supernatural strength and speed in an awkward action scene. Cassie questions everything about Evan in the book and in the movie, it takes on an embarrassing teen romance tone, especially as she stares at his rock hard abs while he bathes.

The movie also forgot to address the fact that there were aliens in this movie. I had no idea who these aliens even were or what they wanted, I forgot the enemy even was aliens after a while. There was no Wonderland either, therefore a lot less risk for characters in the camp.

Their finale escape with Sammy felt pretty effortless. They don’t run into any trouble whatsoever. Vosch doesn’t catch them at all instead he shoots at them a little on his own way out. Evan’s infiltration doesn’t even seem necessary.

And the ending scene was painful. Cassie looking up into the stars during the daytime, which thankfully Ben points out, like suddenly, she’s a thoughtful person. They’re all cheering as they clink cans of beans and play mom and dad to Sam.

There likely won’t be an adaptation of the sequel, and I think only those who have read the book will be able to fill in enough gaps to enjoy The 5th Wave on the big screen.

Book or Movie First?

Book, obviously. Just don’t even bother with the movie. Just don't.

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