Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden

Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
The Tomorrow Series #1
Reviewed by Noelle: January 29, 2012
Published June 1st, 2006 by Scholastic Paperbacks (orig. published 1993)
Goodreads • Paperback at Amazon • Buy at Fishpond • Kindle edition

Whenever I hear a random, not easily explainable boom, there is a small part of me that wonders  if that noise I am brushing off as a transformer going out or random firework is actually something much more sinister. What if it is in fact not a benign blast but the first act of war? There I’ll be, wandering around in my safe oblivious bubble with electricity, plumbing, shelter and easily obtainable food and that boom was the moment my normal world changed forever. 

That is what happens to Ellie and her friends after a run of the mill camping trip. They return to discover their country has been invaded, their families held prisoner by the invading forces and that they are now the de facto resistance. 

I really appreciated how Marsden described the difficulty the teens had fully fathoming their dangerous new situation. 

“I still couldn’t comprehend that this might be a matter of life and death, that this was the most serious thing I’d ever been involved in. Of course I knew it; I just couldn’t keep remembering it every single second. My mind wasn’t that well disciplined.”

It’d really be hard to wrap your head around it, going from teenage worries and cares to guerilla warfare--especially with no authority figures around to take charge. Figuring out what is even going on would be hard enough, let alone survival tactics such as food and protection and eventually fighting back. A course of action, no matter how small would become a risky, life-threatening venture. Ellie and the different members of the group come to terms with the consequences of their war time actions and decisions in different manners which were all very interesting to see. 

The book is written as a group history taken down by Ellie to preserve a record of what happened. At times I thought Marsden had backed himself into a corner by choosing such a specific format. It worked really well sometimes, like when Ellie offered up a cut and dry relation of strategy and events or when Ellie was offering her insight into the situation but there were other times I yearned for more personal information about the other characters. Although the group had 8 members, I ended the book knowing only a few well enough to care what happened to them. (And by care I mean freak out about them. Something big would happen and it'd be more like “Oh, crap” vs. “OMG NOOO WHYYY??” You know how much we like to freak out at YAA.) Overall I was intrigued by all of the characters but ended the novel feeling held at a distance from most of them. I have a feeling that will be remedied in the six following books.

The format also made me skeptical when Ellie would share certain personal feelings (such as debate the merits of competing crushes) in the history. I wanted to read that stuff of course, but I couldn’t help but be semi-mortified that she was sharing it in such a public forum.  The format also made the love stuff (there’s love stuff) leap-frog all of the fun crush-building moments straight to “Oh, by the way, I’m in love with so and so now.” I know the teens are all in life and death mode and there was no time for semantics but I was left feeling a little disappointed. I wanted to be more invested in those kinds of developments.

But back to the good stuff. Primarily this is a book about survival and I loved the ins and outs of the group’s every day life as the resistance. Ellie and Homer's excellent strategizing, along with their ability to think on their feet kept me glued to the book to see what would happen next. It also made me realize how fast I'd be captured or killed if I were in their place. I don't keep matches handy or even know how to drive a stick shift for crying out loud! I might have to start carrying a can opener in my purse. Maybe I should learn a survival skill for each book in this series. Does anyone know where one can sign up for bulldozer driving lessons?

Rating: 3.5/5 stars.  I thought this book was good with moments of great.  Overall this was a fast, engaging read with a dynamic, interesting heroine. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series. On to the next one!

Another point of view: Maggie rated this book 5 stars via Goodreads.


  1. Want. Covet. Need.

    I've been looking at this series for ages now (partly due to Ms Maggie's review!), I need to get on it.

    Also, HA. Bulldozer lessons. Bagsy pairing myself with you in a war scenario.

    I will cry and whimper like a big girl.
    We'll make a brilliant team. ;)

    1. Hee. Seriously we'd be so unprepared Jo! I don't even own enough closed toe shoes! Haha. ~N

  2. I really can't remember if I read this as a teen, I think I did but I just saw the whole series has been re-released and I'm considering starting again with this book and reading the entire series. Thanks for the reminder ;)

  3. while i deff liked this book, the movie version was so. fucking. awesome! ellie's love-life monologues fell a little flat for me too. but incorporating romance into a book about teenages having to become guerillas is a pretty difficult to thing to do, ya know? :P

    also, i just stumbled across your blog through some GR link, i and i adooorez it. keep up the great work! :)

    1. Hi Aleeza! I can't wait to see the movie! I've heard great things about the Ellie character in it especially. I just finished book #2 and I think it's incorporating the FEELINGS much better :D ~N


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