Sometimes you can be really excited for a book, you think you’re going to really love it. But alas, you hate it. It bores you, it disappoints you, it’s a major letdown. But then sometimes, you don’t have crazy high expectations of a book (in fact you might only be reading it because the year 10 students you tutor for English are studying it in school), and it surprises you. You can’t put it down, you can’t stop thinking about it, and you actually enjoy it.
Welcome to John Marsden’s “Tomorrow, When the War Began”.
I did not have high expectations for this book. It may have had something to do with the fact that I generally hated all the books I was assigned to read in high school, which happens to be the same school my students go to, so I assumed it would be more of the same. (I should point out that I’ve grown to appreciate all the books I read in high school in my older age). It may have also had to do with the fact that I’ve never seen the movie, and that it never really appealed to me. But I was not disappointed by this novel, and I think that’s one of the beautiful things about going in without expectations.
If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. Set in Australia, it is a dystopian text following a group of teenagers who, after returning from a few days spent away in the bush, find their small town has been invaded by an unidentified foreign country. Their town has been ransacked, and all the citizens of the town are being held hostage. We follow the teenagers as they try to understand what happened while they were away, try to live as guerrillas, and above all, survive. It was thrilling, emotional, and as a text containing adolescences, managed to capture their hormonal nature, with their preoccupied minds focusing on falling in love in unlikely circumstances, despite the world as they know it coming to an end all around them.
If you are going to read it, it’ll be handy for you to know that it is not based off a true story or true event. I made the mistake of going in thinking it was based around something that had actually occurred, and I remember thinking “I don’t remember learning about that in history class” before I figured it out. I thought I might have remembered if Australia had been invaded and captured by another country in the 90s.
Another point I like, is that the enemy invaders are never identified; their home country remains unknown. So many movies and novels like to paint a picture of the ‘bad guys’ and take a dig at different nationalities, labelling them as Russian, German, Japanese etc. All that is said of the invading soldiers’ nationality is that they speak a language the teenagers can’t identify.
I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable read, even if some bits were so intense that I couldn’t read them before I went to bed. It hits close to home, and is so believable, that you can literally put yourself in the characters shoes. It makes it very relatable and intriguing, and I found myself asking “what if it were me?”.
When I began reading it, I didn’t realise that it was part of a seven book series. It finished on a real cliff-hanger, which I’m pissed off about because now I need to source the second book to find out what happened. But I guess that’s good writing, right?
Recommend it? Yes
Read before bed? Not advised
Cry-worthy? Nearly, so yes if you’re even less emotionally stable than me
Re-readable? Someday I would happily re-read it
Potential to fall in love with characters? No, I’m much too old for any of them
Score /10? A nice solid 8/10