(Image from Barnes & Noble)
"Maybe Hell wasn't anything to do with places. Hell was all to do with people. Maybe Hell was people" (44).
The very last thing Ellie and her friends expect when they emerge from the bush is to find their world irrevocably changed. After a week of camping in the wilderness outside their hometown, all they're really thinking about is hot showers and home-cooked meals. But, while they've been gone, an unknown enemy has taken over their small town. Wirawee—and maybe all of Australia—is overrun with armed, foreign soldiers. All of the kids' friends, neighbors, and family members have been imprisoned. Homes sit empty. Farm animals are dead in their corrals. Stores have been ransacked. The sound of gunfire echoes through the still air. This, the teens are shocked to discover, is a war zone.
Ellie and her six best mates soon realize they may be Wirawee's only hope for rescue. They've been joking all week about "going bush" and "going feral." It's no longer a laughing matter; hiding seems like the best—the only—way to avoid capture. From the safety of the bush's natural camouflage, they can figure out what to do next. The terrified teens can't imagine how to do it, but they know it's up to them to save the world—or at least their little corner of it.
Tomorrow, When the War Began is the first installment in John Marsden's addictive Tomorrow series. The Australian author published the initial volume in 1993; it, and all the subsequent books, have been popular ever since. It's easy to see why. Narrated by strong, sympathetic Ellie, the novel tells an exciting story full of action and adrenaline-fueled adventure. While it's sometimes difficult to distinguish one member of Ellie's posse from another, the characters are still intriguing. They get more fleshed out in later books; Tomorrow, When the War Began focuses more on plot. Still, the tale offers an engaging cast of story people, all of them interesting and root-worthy. That, coupled with lots of heart-pumping action, makes for a fast, engrossing read. The tale's not without its quiet, contemplative moments, which gives it more depth and authenticity. This balance creates a round, layered story that's not just a good yarn, but a poignant one as well. Tomorrow, When the War Began hooked me right away—since the books weren't readily available at my library, I bought the whole set from Amazon through a U.K. seller. That's how invested I already am in this promising series!
(Readalikes: Other books in the series, including The Dead of The Night; A Killing Frost; Darkness, Be My Friend; Burning for Revenge; The Night is For Hunting; and The Other Side of Dawn)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for language (no F-bombs), violence, scenes of peril, and sexual innuendo
(Note: The 2010 Tomorrow, When the War Began film [viewable right now on Netflix] is rated either PG-13 or R, depending on where you're looking. Netflix says R. Amazon has two different listings for the DVDs, one with a PG-13 rating, one with an R rating. I won't watch the film until after I finish the books; if you have, enlighten me about the content, won't you? The 2015/16 t.v. mini-series version [available for purchase on Amazon through Australian retailers] is NR for not rated)
To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of Tomorrow, When the War Began from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.