John Marsden is a name that 90% of Australian teens know, thanks to the Tomorrow series being an English teacher favourite. I remember reading it in (I think) year 9 – we were tasked with reading the first book. I consumed the entire series (minus the Ellie Chronicles) in a matter of weeks.
It’s been nearly eight years since I read the books, and while details are fuzzy I still remember the emotional roller coaster it took me on. As well, certain scenes are still clear in my mind. Because my emotions still felt raw at even the thought of rereading the Tomorrow series, it’s taken me a while to pick them back up. The anticipation of the ABC series based on the books was the final kick in the bumb I needed to pick up the first book.
And I am so glad I did. I was instantly reminded why I wanted to go to one of Marsden’s workshops so badly. He really is an amazing writer. Everything is concise enough to move quickly but descriptive enough that you feel like you’re there with the characters.
One thing I’ve always loved about the books is that there is a definitive reason for it to be in first person POV. Often I find myself thrown off by first person POV because I start questioning the why behind it. With Tomorrow, When the War Began I don’t have to because we know Ellie is writing their story down so they have a documentation of their journey.
It’s so easy to connect with the characters – they don’t feel fake, their conversations and reactions and everything about them seems natural. The books are set in a world prior every teenager and their dog having a mobile phone, but it’s very easy to ignore that and feel like it could be happening present day which is just incredible. In our fast paced world, it’s so easy for things to feel outdated within a year.
One thing that has always stood out to me, and that I wish applied to more books, was the way that Marsden handled killing in self-defence, and the effect that has on the characters. So many YA novels mention a character killing someone but don’t address the repercussions. In Tomorrow, When the War Began each character processes it differently and realistically. Ellie questions whether she’s still a good person, the meaning of good and evil, and so on. But no matter how the characters respond, the important thing is that they do.
I want to address something briefly: in other reviews, I’ve noticed people point out the romance that occurs and consider it unrealistic etc. I beg to differ. The story is about a group of teenagers who are thrown head first into a whole new world. Yes, their families are captive. Yes, their country has been invaded. Yes, their lives will never be the same again. But in a situation like that, among the grieving and fighting and the overall horror of the situation, they are going to seek comfort in the things that seem normal. It is not uncommon for relationships to form during intense situations – and to me, I think it’s a completely normal reaction to be thinking about love and sex during such a long-lived, volatile situation
Tomorrow, When the War began has some real humour gems in it, and I can just imagine Ellie smiling despite herself as she wrote about them. All in all, I wanted to laugh and cry and scream right along with all the characters and I can’t wait to dig into the rest of the series (and to finish the Ellie Chronicles).
Also, I realise I haven’t really addressed the first book so much as the series as a whole, but in future reviews I’ll focus more on the particular Tomorrow book I’m reviewing.
I recommend the tomorrow series to young, new and adult adults alike. It’s a timeless series that I’m sure people of all ages can connect with. Even if you don’t think it’ll be your thing – if you’re more into supernatural or fantasy or sci fi – still give this a go. And if you don’t like it, maybe look at one of Marsden’s other novels like Letters from the Inside.
Have you read the tomorrow series? What are your thoughts? Are you looking forward to the ABC show? I sure am, even though I still think the movie cast was 100% spot on and wish that they could have acted in the TV show.