It had been Ellie and Corrie’s idea, going bush for a few days over the Christmas holidays. They gathered some friends and supplies, went camping, and returned to find their homes deserted, their families missing. A fax Ellie finds at Corrie’s house seems to confirm the group’s worst fear: Australia has been invaded by a foreign army. The country is at war.
The fax from Corrie's dad tells them to go bush again, and, living in the country, Ellie and some others in the group do have the skills they need to survive. After a few harrowing trips into town to do some reconnaissance and check on their homes, they head back out to the place they had been camping when everything went down. But soon they feel the need to do more than just survive. They want to fight the invaders.
John Marsden’s Tomorrow, When the War Began, the first novel in the Tomorrow series, is absolutely riveting. It’s told by Ellie, elected by the group to write down what has happened as a way of “telling ourselves that we mean something, that we matter. That the things we’ve done have made a difference. I don’t know how big a difference, but a difference. Writing it down means we might be remembered.” (p. 2)
Ellie tells us from the beginning that she is recounting events in chronological order and we know from the back cover that the country had been invaded during the original camping trip, so I did not feel impatient as I read this first part of the book, waiting for the action to begin. And there is a lot of action. Marsden writes in a style that is immediate and accessible, making Tomorrow, When the War Began a fast-paced read, exciting and full of tension. Chilling, too, in how realistic and plausible everything seems, how people are forced to change, and with a lingering sense of fear as the group can only hope that all their families are still alive, held with the rest of the town in the Showground. That their actions will make a difference. That they will all survive.
Cross-posted at The YA YA YAs. A film version of Tomorrow, When the War Began is currently in production.
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