Firstly, the book will always be better than the movie. When it comes to “The 5th Wave,” the book was a rollercoaster of emotion in which strong women fought to save the human race, racing against an invasion of aliens that sought to slowly wipe out humanity in waves of terror. The movie, in comparison, fell short.
The first wave was an electromagnetic pulse that shorted out all forms of technology, causing systems of communications to fail. The second wave was a series of earthquakes and tsunamis caused by the aliens triggering the Earth’s fault lines, erasing all coastal cities from the map and killing a suspected three billion people.
The third wave was a plague that was spread through birds, known as the the “Red Death” because of the symptoms of the illness, which I will not spoil here; this sickness took out 97 percent of Earth’s population.
The fourth wave attacked the survivors by having the aliens walk amongst humans as humans to ensure that survivors could trust no one. The fifth wave is so shocking and amazingly horrible that I will give you the pleasure of reading it in the book – though I suggest avoiding the movie like the plague.
As a book, “The 5th Wave” has female characters with actual personalities and are not just objects for strong men to rescue. In the movie, these women are deluded into being just damsels in constant distress, and the focal point is the strong men.
These strong men might as well be walking symbols of toxic masculinity, as they reduce a strong female lead to a sidekick role. Toxic masculinity flows off of them in waves, just like alien attacks, when the female lead has the men in her life make decisions for her without having consented or being perceived as not knowing better.
When she says no, the men in her life only hear yes, which has negative social ramifications in terms of how women see themselves in media.
If women only see strong women forced into obedience repeatedly, even in small ways, this becomes internalized misogyny and women come to believe that “no” is not a respected sentiment.
When it comes to young adult science fiction, strong women are pivotal to show a generation of young women that they matter, and that they belong in leadership positions.
When I read the novel, it made me feel empowered. The book, features strong women that I could see myself in. They were real, with emotions that were more complex than having romantic feelings for some boy.
They experienced grief, happiness, joy, and regret at the same time, because surviving the almost-extinction of the human race is complex, and women are also complex.
The movie only shows these women in either pain or lust as they chase after the hero, never considering they are the hero. The movie takes women and reduces them to tropes that have been outplayed in young adult movies since the nightmare of “Twilight,” where women only have emotions when they are related to men.
The book is vastly better, and I will be finishing the series very soon.