Sunday, August 15, 2010

Young Adult Appreciation Month: Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

For the last month or so, The Book Smugglers have been celebrating all things YA as part of their second annual Young Adult Appreciation Month.

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.


  1. Marg, mr linky is back up so I added your link!

    Thanks for taking part of YAAM.

    Thea loved this book as well, and she plans to read the sequel soon.

  2. I've heard so many good things about this book/series but have yet to read it- your post makes me want to fix that! Thanks for posting such a great review!

  3. Emily, I waited a long time to read it, and I really am wondering why!

    Thanks Ana, and I look forward to reading Thea's thoughts on it.

  4. Oh, I wish the movie was being released here in the States! I hate having to wait for DVD.

  5. I have never heard of this book, but I after reading your review, I think it sounds amazing! I will have to see if I can find it! Thanks for this great review!

  6. Carrie, I hope that it gets released there sooner rather than later. The movie trailer looks quite Hollywood in some ways.

    Zibilee, I hope you can find it, because it was an awesome read.

  7. Just finished Hunger Games and Catching Fire and enjoyed them....I am marking this one to read now, too.

  8. In 93 I was on my way to uni and there was no way I was going to be reading teen fiction :). My sister though was fourteen, loved the books and I think still has the whole series. She raved about it but I think it was snobbery that prevented me from reading. I have read 3 YA novels this year and thoroughly enjoyed them. Look like I am up for a trip to the library.

  9. I haven't read these books, they were after my time for school reading, but the movie trailer does look excellent!

    It's good to hear they spent blockbuster funds on an Aussie Author's story too... for that reason, I have a feeling it will go to the US...

  10. I've been wanting to read this since I saw it reviewed by the BookSmugglers. I need to bump it up on my TBR pile!

  11. I need to read this series, and see if they are appropriate for our middle school library.

  12. I've been trying to avoid watching the trailer as I wanted to see the movie without but I couldn't stop my fingers clicking on play after reading your review.

    I have a love/hate relationship with these books. They are awesome writing with some fabulous characterization and that makes me love them. The fact that our country is invaded makes them very hard to read. It would be interesting to read a review written by someone who had actually had their country invaded.

    The books are still available new. Some of us with stocks of pre-loved copies of these books are running out of stock very fast.

  13. This looks like a "must have" series! And impressive trailer for the movie!

  14. I loved this series as a teen. Cannot believe it took so long to make the film version, which I am very much looking forward to seeing.



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