The 5th Wave


Cassie Sullivan

In the early pages of the novel, Cassie tells us that she has changed from the way she used to be—that she has become a killer. Given the context in which Cassie finds herself—kill or be killed—this increases our sympathy for Cassie rather than diminishing it. She is a teenage girl in unbelievable circumstances, and moreover she is an admirable teenage girl in these circumstances because of the way that she responds to things. She endures and overcomes intense physical pain because she loves her brother and wants to get to him; she does not give into loneliness, depression, or hopelessness, although she deals with her situation with a kind of gallows humor that illustrates her intelligence and endears her to the reader.

Although Cassie is forced to become a killer by circumstance, and her trauma and suffering actually transform her into a warrior, she was once just a normal teenage girl—all crushed out on the guy with the winning smile, completely attached to her cell phone, and hanging out with her best friend. These flashback glimpses of the pre-apocalypse Cassie ground her as a believable character. At the same time, Cassie has a certain spark that helps her confront her situation with courage and realism.

Cassie’s one big blind spot—the amount of time it takes her to realize that Evan Walker is one of the Others—is also a believable and endearing characteristic. After all, she is a teenage girl with affectionate feelings for the kind young man who is taking care of her. In regard to Evan, Cassie actually trusts her instincts more than her intellect. In this way, her feelings for Evan help her to hold on to her humanity, the part of her that is capable of feeling trust and love. Ultimately, it is this capacity that makes her stronger than the Others. 

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