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December 12, 2018

Tomorrow, When the War Began: Review #Survival #Australia #TeenLit

by Alison DeLuca

I stumbled across Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden on Twitter. One of the reading blogs I follow suggested it as a great read. Since I never have enough teen lit in my life, I picked up the book and was instantly fascinated.

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Tomorrow is the story of a group of teens who emerge from a camping trip into a world at war. When Ellie hikes to a place called (appropriately enough) Hell, she thinks she's going to spend a week partying with friends. And for a few days, that's what she does: playing games and swimming with Lee, Homer, Fiona, and a few others.

front cover of Tomorrow When the War Began

But when they hike back to their town of Wirrawee the world has changed, and drastically so. Their parents are gone. Their houses are under attack, and there is a prisoners' camp in town.

All of this launches Ellie and her friends into survival mode. She has to drive a digger as an improvised tank in a harrowing rescue and search for food, all while avoiding an invading army intent on capturing her and her friends.

The action is amazing, and I always looked forward to reading the next chapter. Tomorrow was exciting enough to keep me thinking about what just happened even as I cooked Thanksgiving dinner.

But what truly drew me in were two things:

1. Ellie and her friends are real, living teenagers. By this, I mean that Marsden has created incredible characters who spring to life, take the reader by the hand, and pull us into the story. They are not cardboard characters at all, and I loved the organic way relationships grew between them. In fact, the friendships and romances are so subtle they surprised me.

For example, Ellie and Homer start as friends. In fact, Homer is another amazing character who is seen as one type at the start of the novel and becomes someone completely different as the action evolves.

Don't expect canned roles like the Nerd, the Hero, or the Sex Symbol in this book. Each character is a mix of those with their own personality, so wonderfully written that I could picture these teens as they negotiated Hell and its aftermath.

2. Wirrawee, Hell, and Australia are perfectly evoked through description, plot, and dialogue. Obviously Marsden knows his stuff when it comes to Australian sheep farms and the teens who live on them. A hastily-researched novel is always a huge disappointment, and Tomorrow is NOT one of those.
picture of Red Rock in Australia
image courtesy of Wiki commons

Tomorrow is told by Ellie as she writes what has happened to her friends in an old notebook. Its not a device that always works, but Marsden makes Ellie's words sing. With simple and heartbreaking prose, she looks at her new life and remembers how the world used to be - and how she took it for granted.

This book is a new classic.

The story has also become a film. I'm looking forward to watching it, although I hope the directors are as gifted as Marsden when it comes to painting a subtle masterpiece about a garish new reality.

Buy Tomorrow, When the War Began at Amazon

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain. Currently, she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey. Connect with Alison on FacebookTwitterGoogle+Pinterest, and her blog.

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