Monday, August 23, 2010
Tomorrow, When The War Began
Tomorrow, When The War Began is an Australian young adult novel by John Marsden.
The book first came out in 1993 and according to my copy has been reprinted over 50 times since then. It's a genuine Australian literary phenomenon. John Marsden can be considered the Bryce Courtenay of the teen set. The book has been critically acclaimed and it's required reading at a number of Australian high schools. Prior to writing Tomorrow, When The War Began, Marsden was a high school teacher, he already had a number of books published, but nothing would approach the stunning success of the Tomorrow series. John Marsden is still writing and is also still in the education game, he runs his own school called Candlebark. Tomorrow, When The War Began is the subject of an upcoming film to be released in Australia in early September.
I picked the book up and put it down a number of times. There were a couple of reasons for this. It came out in 1993 and I was largely over YA material by this age, the other was that the book on an initial glance bore striking resemblance to a 1980's American film called Red Dawn, about an invasion of the US by hostile foreign forces and how the high school football team, comprising most members of the 80's Brat Pack, began a guerilla action against the invaders. To a certain extent that's the storyline of Tomorrow, When The War Began, although I doubt Marsden was inspired by the film.
Over the summer holidays a group of friends: Ellie, Robyn, Fi, Corrie, Homer, Lee and Kevin go on a camping holiday in a remote wilderness commonly referred to by the locals of the small country town of Wirrawee as 'Hell'. While the kids are camping, their town, in fact the entire Australian mainland, is invaded by a foreign power from the north. The invaders nationality is never actually made clear, but it's widely believed that they are Asian, possibly from Indonesia. The kids decide that the best option is to go back to their remote camp site and see if they can work out the best way to make life difficult for the invaders and do their bit to help free their country.
Despite the situation there isn't a huge amount of action in the book, it's more about how the kids handle the circumstances they find themselves in and their interactions. The book is written from the point of view of farm girl Ellie, who was elected as the group's chronicler. It's written in a very personal style and although Marsden was a middle aged man when he wrote it, he portrays a teenage girl very effectively. The slang and language used to convey the story is contemporary and authentic. I'm sure Marsden observed his students when he was teaching and adopted their mode of speaking comfortably. I don't know if he initially planned sequels, but he certainly left the book open for one and has since written 6 more books in the Tomorrow series, plus a further 3 starring Ellie.
It was a quick and enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to seeing how they handle the big screen treatment, even if the two stars of it are from Neighbours and Home & Away.