I’m not usually a big fan of book reviews because I think tastes are fairly subjective so even though I’ve called this a review it is more a discussion about a book.
Tomorrow, When The War Began by John Marsden
There are a few reasons why I decided to discuss this particular book. Firstly, it is Australian, set in Australia, and while it is realistic in its portrayal of Australia and Australians it has enough fantastic elements to keep me interested. Secondly, the main character and narrator is female and extremely interesting. Thirdly, despite not liking having to read multiple books to get the whole story, this seven book series is well worth reading, multiple times for sheer enjoyment.
This series is about Australia being invaded by an unnamed enemy (though the description given at times would seem to indicate a few ideas about who the invaders may be). The politicians have bailed out of Australia, flying to New Zealand and America to hide and none of Australia’s allies seem inclined to intervene.
Elle, our narrator, is a teenage girl who decides not to go to her town’s annual show and instead sets off with a group of her friends to go camping for the weekend. By doing so, the group of them are not rounded up and captured when the invasion occurs.
The story recounts Elle’s initial fear and surprise and then determination as she and her friends learn what has happened and then set about attempting to disrupt the enemy, possibly free some of their friends, and to survive. Things don’t all go Elle’s way and this story at no time assumes that untrained teenagers would run rings around armed soldiers. Marsden was sensible in choosing a country town where the kids grew up on farms and had a slew of practical skills, working with machinery and minor explosives prior to the war.
I said initially that I like this story for three reasons. The Australian setting is one of them. The setting varies between extreme scrub, farmland, rocky valleys and small towns and each setting is described beautifully and they are all believable. It really felt as though you could drive out to the town and walk into the mountains and actually find the rocky basin the teens nick-name ‘hell’. This setting is used to great effect providing shelter for the teens and a means of out smarting, and out hiding, the enemy when things get rough as well as isolating them and creating its own dangers.
The second reason is Elle. She is an incredibly detailed character. As a farm girl she is tough but she is emotional and loyal to her friends. She is recounting the story (writing it down on behalf of the group) and she is brutally honest in her reflection. As a reader you can forget at times that this isn’t a real recount, it is simply a story. Elle is a phenomenal character and one I couldn’t get enough of when I first read this series. If you get far enough along, you will genuinely cry at some of the things that befall her (trust me on this one).
Finally, the story is incredible. The plot has been worked over until it feels completely seemless. Maybe some people will have a hard time believing teenagers are actually capable of doing more than watching television, but if you get over this, the story is amazing.
Tomorrow, When The War Began – very much worth the read.
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