John Marsden: Tomorrow, When the War Began (1993) An Australian Page-turner

When Ellie and her friends go camping, they have no idea they’re leaving their old lives behind forever. Despite a less-than-tragic food shortage and a secret crush or two, everything goes as planned. But a week later, they return home to find their houses empty and their pets starving. Something has gone wrong–horribly wrong. Before long, they realize the country has been invaded, and the entire town has been captured–including their families and all their friends. Ellie and the other survivors face an impossible decision: They can flee for the mountains or surrender. Or they can fight.

Sometimes you want to read for pure entertainment, something that is fast-paced, action-packed but still interesting. Tomorrow, When the War Began is exactly like that, a real page-turner. I discovered the book on Jenclair’s blog last year and am really glad I read it. I am not too much into  series but this start into the Tomorrow Series was really gripping. Too bad that it isn’t an independent book. It’s rather a series in the spirit of the TV series Lost. It always ends when it’s most supenseful, when something big happens. You really have to go on reading if you want to know what’s going to happen next. Jenclair has read all the books meanwhile. You can find her second review here.

Ellie and her friends go camping instead of participating in a cattle show that takes place during Commemoration Day. They make a trip into the Australian mountains and discover a place that very possibly no one has ever seen before. Or only one person, a hermit, who is said to have lived there. The hermit is a man who has been accused of the murder of his wife and baby and escaped into the mountains.

The place they discover is enchanted. It seems to belong to another world, untouched by civilization. They enjoy their stay a lot and leave only reluctantly. When they arrive at their homes, the coming back is a brutal one. Their houses and farms have been abandoned, their animals are dead or dying. Bit by bit they discover that Australia has been invaded and all the people are captives.

The adventures that follow are numerous and dangerous. They first need to find out what happened, then they need to make decisions. How are they going to live and where? How will they hide, what will they eat? It seems natural that they return to the hidden place in the mountains. The country is swarming with foreign soldiers and every expedition is a trial.

We never hear who has invaded the country but we learn why. People in neighbouring poor countries couldn’t accept that a lot belongs to a few rich people and they came to redistribute what is here.

What I liked particularly is the setting. I have never been to Australia but I have seen movies and it is a country whose landscape fascinates me. The setting is rendered very well, in a very descriptive manner. I liked the exploration of topics like war, murder, social justice and injustice. I was just wondering for a moment if it is ethical, to base a book on the idea that poor people or a poor country could act in such an aggressive way. I think what Marsden had in mind, was raising the awareness that there are people less well off than those in the Western hemisphere. Another question that arose was whether they would have the military power to invade.

The characters are not all equally well drawn, two stay a bit schematic but that may change in the future books, maybe they will be more developed.

If you want to read something that is really absorbing, this is a good choice.

Did I mention it is a YA novel? I often enjoy the topics they explore and this is no different. Part one of the series has been made into a film. I haven’t seen it, no idea if it is any good.

Do you like series and if so which ones?

18 thoughts on “John Marsden: Tomorrow, When the War Began (1993) An Australian Page-turner

  1. I think the only series books that I follow are mysteries. I like the sound of this one, though. It reminds me of some of the ‘apocalyptic’ fiction that was populat when I was growing up, though this is written from a different angle. Does it totally leave you hanging or are some answers given? And will you read more?

    • I also read mysteries series but not even those very often. I have a few I like though. Exactly, it has almost a bit of a sci-fi/dark fantasy feel, definitely apocalyptic. It does leave you hanging on, it’s very annoying. I think Jenclair wasn’t sure if she would go on reading and then read one after the other… I thought at first, no way, not with the limited time I have… but now I am already tempeted to find out more… I think I will certainly read part two and decide then.

  2. I’ve read a couple of series. Like Maurice Denuzière, Pennac, Elizabeth George, Anne Perry’s serie on WWI, Armistead Maupin.
    It’s nice sometimes to find the same characters and watch them change under the pen of the writer.

    • Oh yes, I agree, I read quite a few crime series but never this type of series where the total of the books almost equals one work, like Twilight (I didn’t go on reading after the initial two but I think it is finished after book 4). I wasn’t very clear at the end, I suppose. I don’t know Maurice Denuzière btw. Will have to look him up.

      • The Perry serie I mentioned is like that : 4 books and making only one story.

        The Denuzière serie I’ve read is Lousiane then Fausse Rivière then Bagatelle. Great beach and transportation book, if I remember well. (I’ve read this I was like 13 or 14 and I still remember of the names of the characters.)It may sound cheesy now, I don’t know.

        Other interesting series I’ve read
        – Jean Diwo : Les Dames du Faubourg. Parisian setting, historical. Not a great style but I was interested in the history of that part of Paris (around Nation, Faubourg St Antoine)

        – Simone Bertière : Les reines de France. She helped me put the kings of France in the right order in my head and I’ll always be grateful for that. She writes well for an historian and sees the history of France through the queens instead of the kings. Interesting point of view.

        – Roger Martin du Gard : Les Thibault. Not my cup of tea but famous.

        – Naghib Mahfouz : the serie in Cairo. Fantastic.

        • I was always tempted by Diwo. I associate him with the métro in Paris for the odd and simple reason that he is the author I have seen very often being read by people on the métro. This fascinated and intrigued me but somehow never got around to try him. I am tempted. Style is not always everything. Amazing that Denuzière stayed in your mind like that. I’m not too sure about him though. I would be interested in Bertière. It’s great when historians can make history come alive in a novel. This reminds me of my favourite historical novel L’allée du roi by Françoise Chandernagor. I’m not much into historical novels but this one really stuck in my mind and will stay there forever.

        • I just remembered I got Diwo’s memoir 249, Faubourg St. Antoine that I had also bought for my father as it described the Paris of his childhood. I think he liked it.

  3. This sounds interesting. I didn’t know whether I have read any YA book or no. This is a ‘new’ genre to me.

    I think you know which series I never grew tired of as I have read it for the 4th time last year.
    The 1st series I read was when I was still in Junior high, it was called the three investigators.

    • The Lord of the Rings would probably be marketed as a YA novel nowadays as well. I just think that you can find a lot of interesting themes and topics and the writing is often very fresh. I really want to read The Hunger Games this year. I think it must be one of the best and from what i read i could imagine you would like it as well. This one too probably.

  4. I don’t think LOTR is YA, it’s not about young people after all.

    Ah…please read this book first before you read The Hunger Game >> http://t.co/t88laxs
    When I first read the blurb on the back cover of The Hunger Game, my jaw hit the floor…it’s a rip-off of Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. I refuse to read that book unless the whole world already read Takami’s book. Some who had read both said a remarkable similarity but Collins changed the details. Thank God, they who have read both books said that Battle Royale is much better than Hunger Game.

    • I had no idea, thanks for telling me, well, basically I wasn’t wrong, you would like the topic… You are right about LOTR not having many young peopel in it, although, the hobbits could be seen as yound adults. Sort of. I absoluetyl need to check Battle Royale… How can they get away with this?

  5. Series books are great if you love the characters and want to keep reading about them, but I might be annoyed as well if I just wanted the story to come to a satisfying conclusion. Of course the author wants to sell more books… 🙂

    • That is exactly the case here. It is all about the story. I know already if I read book two I will be as unsatisfied as I was at end of book one. Detective or PI series are really different. When you like a character you want to “meet” him/her again.

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