'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 3 June 2010

Review: Tomorrow, When The War Began

Have you ever been bush camping and wondered what was happening in the outside world? Ever have just a tiny inkling that anything could have happened and you wouldn’t know it from your blissful spot in the middle of nowhere?
I camp with my family quite often and this is part of the appeal; no contact with anyone else, getting back to basic survival skills. In this world of mobile phones and portable internet devices, there is no greater novelty than being completely uncontactable.

Tomorrow, When the War Began was first published in 1993, when the internet was only just kicking off, mobile phones were still the size of bricks and iPhones and Blackberries weren’t even a twinkle in their creators’ eyes. Yet the basic concept of the book rings true now more than ever. To this day, I think of this book whenever I am camping and wonder what is happening in the world. Will everything be different when I return home?

This is the story of seven teenagers who head off for a weekend camping in the bush, in a spot called Hell. They head home a few days later to find their whole world has fallen apart.

Each of their homes has been abandoned, pets are dead and there is no sign of life in the town. The kids remember the dozens and dozens of aeroplanes that flew over their campsite, at night without lights, and it dawns on them that something terrible has happened.

Only when they visit the local showground do they begin to realise the extent of it. Armed soldiers are keeping everyone prisoner and when the kids are spotted, they are forced to fight for their lives.

This is war.

Narrated by our heroine, Ellie, readers are taken along as the teenagers gather information and learn to survive on their own. This is the first in a series of books about these kids, introducing us to their stories and the beginning of their struggle to come to terms with their irrevocably changed lives and fight for justice.

It is fair to say that this book has a special place in my life. I was thirteen years old when Tomorrow, When the War Began was released, fourteen when I was lucky enough to attend a speech by John Marsden. The book was so different to anything else available for teenagers at the time, and I was excited at the thought of becoming a writer myself, dreaming of creating something that would have such an effect on others.

Hearing Marsden speak was enthralling. He was inspirational, and I looked at him with the revelation that he was living the life I wanted to live; an amazing experience for any child or teenager carving out a future in their mind’s eye.

Years later, it is interesting to see that this book has not dated. The appeal to current-generation teenagers is such that it is being made into a major Australian film, to be released in September this year.

The Marsden magic is about to be brought to many more teenage lives.

Title: Tomorrow, When the War Began
Author: John Marsden
Publisher: Pan Macmillan, $18.99 RRP
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780330403801
For ages: 12 +
Type: Novel