Her parents are dead, her brother is missing, and Cassie is on the run from extra-terrestrial killers searching out Earth’s last survivors. This is the scene Rick Yancey sets in his sci-fi thriller, The 5th Wave, whose cover is revealed here. Due from Putnam next May, the novel is the first in a trilogy. Prior YA offerings from Yancey, who has also written several adult novels and a memoir, Confessions of a Tax Collector, include 2005’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, which kicked off a three-volume series; and the 2010 Michael L. Printz Honor book, The Monstrumologist, which also has two sequels.

Though this is Yancey’s initial foray into science fiction, he is an ardent fan of the genre and has long envisioned trying his hand at it. “Science fiction is one of my first loves, along with fantasy,” he says. “I grew up with Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke – giants in the field. It’s a genre that has been well explored in both adult and YA fiction and I didn’t want to throw some knock-off into the ring. I wanted to put my own stamp on it. For this novel, I wanted to think through what a plausible alien invasion might look like, versus a Hollywood version.”

The plot for The 5th Wave was spawned by a conversation Yancey had with his wife a few years ago. “I asked her what her greatest fear is, and she said an alien abduction,” he recalls. “She thought that not only would it be terrifying to be abducted – but she’d be afraid no one would believe her!” Yancey also speaks about his love for putting his character through extremes. “What fascinates me is ordinary people forced into extraordinary circumstances,” he says, “and finding out what they’re really made of.”

Jen Besser, v-p and publisher of Putnam Books for Young Readers, says she was swept into The 5th Wave from the start – and made a swift move to acquire the trilogy in a deal for world English rights, negotiated by Brian DeFiore of DeFiore and Co. “It was a preempt hours before going into what would have been a very heated auction,” says Besser of the acquisition.

Besser anticipates a broad reader base – and a crossover audience – for The 5th Wave, which has an announced first printing of 500,000 copies. “I could equally enthusiastically recommend this novel to my best friend and her teenage daughter, to my mom who’s never read sci-fi, and to my neighbor who’s a self-proclaimed SF geek,” she says. “And I’d be 100% confident they will all love it.”

The publisher says that she is “very pleased” with the cover treatment for The 5th Wave, which was designed by Allied Integrative Marketing. “Any time you have a book like this that speaks to so many people, there’s the problem of creating a cover that speaks to them all as well, without being in any way watered down,” she notes. “This is a striking package.”

Yancey, who had input into the cover design each step of the way, agrees. “There must have been about 45 versions of it, and we had multiple meetings,” he says. “I’m thrilled with the way it came out – it’s haunting, iconic, and cool. One thing I love most about the cover is that it doesn’t scream sci-fi. The novel is within the realm of the futuristic and is scientifically plausible, but there’s more to the story than straight science fiction, and I really wanted the cover to convey that, too.”

Putnam’s pre-pub plans to build buzz for The 5th Wave include an author bookseller dinner tour, convention appearances, and a consumer awareness campaign. National print, theater, and TV advertising will follow, and future author publicity will include a national tour and fall book festival appearances. Film rights to the novel have been preempted by Tobey McGuire and producer Graham King of GK Films.

Besser says she’s excited about the novel’s May appearance on bookstore shelves. “I’ve been a fan of Rick since reading The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp, she says. “He’s a versatile author who can seamlessly blend a literary and commercial sensibility. I’d say The 5th Wave is a publisher’s dream.”

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. Putnam, $18.99 May 2013 ISBN 978-0-399-16241-1