Review: Tomorrow, When The War Began
Admittedly, I'm a little late getting around to this one and although a staunch fan of Marsden, if I had read Tomorrow, When The War Began two decades earlier, the plausibility and impact no doubt would have been far more intense.
Despite that, this remains a telling story of tenacity, teen relationships and ingenuity - the kind kids had before they plugged themselves into mobile phones. Using one's wits under pressure is never a straightforward thing. Survival text books may help but chuck in generous dollops of distress, an alarming lack of adult assistance, huge clods of uncertainty, a ridiculous amount of gun-wielding marksmen and of course no app to advise you what to do or how to think and you've got yourself a situation a lot out of the normal and way out of control.
A handful of Wirrawee's rural youth led by Ellie return from a secluded weekend camping trip to find their world upturned, their town invaded and their families held captive by an unknown foreign force. They presume the worst and eventually encounter it. Their choices are limited: run and hide, wait out the attackers or confront their new enemies head on in a bid to liberate their parents and friends. Each option carries its own deadly consequences which the teens repeatedly weigh and reweigh.
They retreat to their hideaway in the hills behind Ellie's family property; a place called Hell because at this point in time, Hell is still the safest place on Earth. It becomes their central headquarters and sanctuary.
Multiple character adventures can be confusing because of the number of personalities and trains of thought one needs to keep up with. They are also intriguing for the same reasons. More than one opinion on how to blow up a bridge for instance is more interesting and useful as in would be in real life when more than one point of view is shared.
This is something Marsden does well. The dynamics of this group of friends and ring-ins is both stimulating and absorbing. Ellie tells their story and interprets their reactions on our behalf for she has been assigned the job of recording their response to the invasion for prosperity and proof. And she does so in a clear and meaningful way that never confuses each characters traits or dilutes their intentions. They are portrayed with precision and meaning. Homer is my particular favourite; rogue bad-boy turned hero. Every good story needs a James Dean like Homer.
I enjoyed the level of tension maintained throughout which for me kicked in properly around Chapter 5 when the wheels started falling off their wagons, so to speak. The main question that isn't answered in this first instalment of the seven book series and the one that bugs me most is...why? Why is this war happening? Who are these invaders? What is it they want? These whys are only vaguely alluded to but never explored in depth, which would have been nice even though the hook they create left unanswered is deliberately large and tantalising.
I guess I'll have to keep reading to find out. For those who love engrossing series and characters they can identify with including flawed female leaders who can handle articulated vehicles with relative aplomb, Tomorrow, When The War Began will continue to strike a chord. Ellie fans can carry on the saga with The Ellie Chronicles, which explores Ellie's post-apocalyptic war world.
Title: Tomorrow, When The War Began
Author: John Marsden
Publisher: Pan Macmillan, $18.99
Publication Date: March 2016 (first published 1993)
For ages: 14+
Type: Upper Middle Grade Fiction / Young Adult Fiction
Buy the Book: Booktopia, Pan Macmillan, Boomerang Books