Welcome to my first Guest Review! Today I have Tash Leary, staff member of Jabberjays.net (a Hunger Games fan site), reviewing Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden, which we will be giving away an ebook copy of!
Tash holds a Bachelor’s Degrees in Business (Marketing) and Computing and currently works in communications and media. She has been involved in fansites since 2002 and was the owner of the hugely popular Kath and Kim (Australian version) fansite Foxymorons.net (since disbanded after the show’s run ended), which regularly received more visitors than the show’s official website. Aside from The Hunger Games her fandom interests include Game of Thrones, Divergent and anything gaming-related.
A literary legend in Australia, Tomorrow When the War Began (TWTWB) is the first book in a series of 7 (10 if you include the follow-on trilogy ‘The Ellie Chronicles’). First published in 1993, the series has received critical acclaim worldwide and is included in the curriculum of schools across the country. It continues to enthrall new generations of readers and is currently having resurgence in popularity due to comparisons with new-age young adult fiction such as ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’.
TWTWB follows the story of Ellie Linton, a rural Australian teenager from the fictional town of Wirrawee. Keen to spend some time away from the restrictions of adults, Ellie organises a camping trip to ‘Hell’, a remote area set into a local mountain range, with her best friend Corrie. Together they put together a group of friends to make the trip with them: Homer, Ellie’s best mate, next door neighbour and general troublemaker; Kevin, farm boy and Corrie’s boyfriend; Robyn, who is religious, sporty and ultra-competitive; Fiona (Fi), the intelligent, social ‘townie’; and Lee, the quiet, talented musician who intrigues Ellie.
After enjoying the adventure of a lifetime it’s time to return to civilisation however, the teen’s world is soon turned upside down when they return to find homes abandoned and livestock dead. This leads to the terrifying discovery that the country has been invaded, and after a suspense-filled trek into Wirrawee the group resolves to fight the invasion forces (who are never given a nationality). From here on the book becomes a rollercoaster ride, with loads of tension and emotionally charged moments as you constantly wonder how long the group can survive against the odds.
TWTWB certainly doesn’t skimp on the action, with plenty of firefights, explosions and even a wild car chase through the streets of Wirrawee. The group consistently comes up with ingenious and highly improvised ideas and methods to take the fight to the soldiers, including setting a lawn mower on fire, as they establish a hideout at ‘Hell’. They’re far from gung-ho though, and the book explores the choices involved with the conflict, particularly when it comes to killing.
The books strongest point though is its narration of the story. Ellie explains early in the book that she has been nominated to write down a record of their actions and lives, which is a neat touch by the author John Marsden as it peaks your interest from the get-go. Ellie’s narration really makes you feel as if you are another member of their guerrilla group and keeps the story grounded in terms of her experiences as she narrates growing up with all the usual teenage dramas (particularly relationships!) amidst the backdrop of war. The story is littered with her humour and sarcasm, giving it a real personality and ensuring each character is relatable. For instance after one dangerous excursion Ellie takes the time to make a joke about being responsible for the wheelies left on the golf course!
As the beginning of a seven-part series, TWTWB does a great job of investing the reader in the characters as well as setting up an intriguing journey for them. Marsden likes to put the reader on the edge of their seat and with plenty of action and drama it’s easy to keep turning the pages to find out what will happen next. If you’ve been searching for a new YA ‘fix’ then TWTWB will be right up your alley.