Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden

March 2011, Quercus
286 pages, Paperback
Review copy 

Children's, thriller, dystopian 

Invasion, soldiers, horrors of warfare, solidarity, living off the land, fugitives, fear, love, friendships forged and strengthened, tragedy, loss, determination, some humour, teen romance, tissues are needed

Summary from Quercus
When their country is invaded and their families are taken, eight high school teenagers band together to fight. Seventeen-year-old Ellie Linton wants one final adventure with her friends before the school holidays are over. Packed in Ellie's parents' land rover they drive to the famously isolated rock pool Eden dubbed 'Hell' by the locals. Returning to their home town of Wirrawee, the seven teenagers realize that something is seriously wrong. Power to the houses has been cut, pets and livestock have been left dead or dying, and most alarmingly of all, everyone's family has vanished. When the hostile armed forces discover that the teenagers are lying low in the vicinity, Ellie and her friends must band together to escape, outwit and strike back against the mysterious enemy that has seized control of their town and imprisoned their friends and loved ones...

Nayuleska's thoughts
War. It happens. We all know that. I've read a few stories about the second world war, or involving a few of the other wars. War is a fact of human life that seems permanent. This book is about war, but on a different scale. It really makes you think about life. I mean, who would think that Australia could be overtaken by a mysterious enemy? Ellie didn't dream of it. Neither did her friends. After all, doesn't war only happen in troubled nations?

To say it came as a shock to them is an understatement. They had the sense to stick together when they came back from their camping trip to find disaster had struck. The scenes in the novel get quite graphic - not for the weakhearted. Ellie and her friends make mistakes which nearly cost their lives. But in a strange way that's what makes their lives so fascinating: they weren't trained to fight in a war, but they use their collective intelligence to keep themselves safe and to come up with an action plan. At the end of the book they have an idea of what they want to do. However, life throws up an unexpected challenge which forces them into taking a slightly different form of action. 

This book is built primarily on Ellie and her friends' relationship with each other. If they hadn't trusted each other, they wouldn't have worked together as a group, and in turn they wouldn't have survived. There were times of uncertainty, where they didn't know which emotions to follow. Ellie is clear in setting out how she felt about situations - most of the time she is muddled. She likes things to be clear cut. But one of her friends teaches that life is varying shades of grey. Their life has never been so tough, and yet they get over their differences and stick together. They grow stronger, they improve their ingenuity, their ability to survive without  the luxuries they'd all taken for granted before the invasion. These are qualities I love in dystopian books, and this is turning out to be an incredible, moving start to an interesting series. 

Final conclusion 
For a book which keeps you on the edge of your seat, your hand on a tissue box, your heart alternating between joy and sorrow, where you witness the best and worse of humanity, delve into Ellie's journey with her 7 friends in the start of a harrowing experience. 

Check out how prolific John Marsden is with all his books on his website.

Suggested reads
Auslander by Paul Dowswell, the life of a young Jewish boy at the time of the second world war 

The Tomorrow Code by Brian Faulkner, where the fate of the world lies in the hands of two friends. 

Time Riders by Alex Scarrow, as if history wasn't scary enough, try dealing with someone who goes back in time and makes life even more horrendous than it was the second world war. That's what a group of children who are thrown together have to stop, with the help of time travel. 

(Oh - I probably won't be watching the film. Unless it transforms into an anime. Books turned into films are a tricky area. Give me the books any day!) 

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