Last year, I posted about The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and talked about the fact that I hadn't really read a lot of YA historical fiction, or YA by Australian authors. Over the course of the last year, I have read a few more YA books by Australian authors, and it is one of those books that I wanted to concentrate on today.
I already know that there is a fair amount of love around for the Tomorrow series by John Marsden. I had already had a few conversations with people who were either shocked that I hadn't already read this series, or who insisted that I really, really needed to read it (or in some cases had both reactions!)
As soon as The Book Smugglers put out the invitation for other people to do a post today for YA Appreciation Month, I instantly knew that this was going to be the book that I talked about, because I enjoyed reading it so much.
Tomorrow, When the War Began
The astonishing adventure begins.
Ellie and her friends leave home one quiet morning, wave goodbye to their parents, and head up into the hills to camp out for a while: seven teenagers filling in time during school holidays.
The world is about to change forever.
Their lives will never be the same again.
Would you fight? Would you give up everything?Would you sacrifice even life itself?Tomorrow, When the War Began asks the biggest questions you will ever have to answer.
Tomorrow, When the War Began was originally published in 1993, and apparently quickly became part of the syllabus for Australian school kids. That is a few years after I finished high school, so I didn't have the pleasure of reading it then, but I can definitely see why teachers would want to include it. The story that is told is universal yet the language that is used is quintessentially Australian. It is full of action, and yet there are moments of quietness that are full of strength and poignancy.
The book begins when Ellie and her friends decide to go for one last camping trip before school goes back. On the camping trip with Ellie is Corrie and her boyfriend Kevin, Fi, Homer, Lee and Robyn, The plan is to trek up Taylor's Stitch, and then into Hell for a few days of being immersed in nature and away from parents and responsibilities - a time to be young. Little do the teenagers know, they are going to be forced to make very grown up choices very soon.
The first section of the book presents an idyllic glimpse into this particular group of teenagers life in Australia, which I am sure is representative of a country lifestyle more so than a citydwellers. There is no way known my parents would have let me driven out into the country for a weekend away without any supervision, but I suppose a big part of the reason for that would be that I would have had to have driven a couple of hours away from home. Not all of the parents are happy about this trip away, but after some cajoling and sweet talking (as kids manage to be able to do) they are allowed to go.
One night Ellie witnesses a number of jets flying above their campsite without having any lights on. It is only when the group return home that it becomes really clear that there is something really wrong. Their parents and family are nowhere to be found, there are no working phone lines, and it is not possible to access any news services.
The group quickly realises that they need to go into survival mode as well as trying to figure out what is going on. It is here that the key differences in each of the characters come to the fore. Some people naturally lead, others follow but each of them brings something to the group. The group itself rapidly evolves from kids having fun, to young people who are undertaking guerrilla warfare against the invaders.
I have seen references to this being dystopian, but for me, it is almost a step before dystopian that I don't really have a name for. The reason why I think this is that this novel is set at the very beginning of an invasion into Australia. We don't know who it is who invading, we just know that they have come well prepared and well armed. That said, if you liked The Hunger Games or other books in that dystopian genre, you may well really enjoy this book too. I most certainly did.
The Australian countryside is beautifully presented in this novel, and I definitely would love to go and see some of the places mentioned (if only it didn't involve serious exercise!). Luckily others have taken the time to share images (down towards the bottom of the linked page you will see the links) and some of those sites I expect will be showcased in the movie version that is being released in Australia and New Zealand in the next few weeks. I am very excited at the prospect of seeing this movie and have already lined up a couple of my friends to go and see it with me. Unfortunately, I don't think that there is an international release date.
I don't rate that many books as 5/5 reads, but this book will definitely be on my list of top reads for the year, and I am planning to continue reading the series soon.
Here is the trailer for the movie:
If you have already read this book you might be interested in watching John Marsden answering the question - Who are the Invaders?. I am not totally sure what the subject of the program that this segment was part of was meant to be, but I suspect it was to do with multiculturism or racism.