Thursday, March 17, 2011

A week of reviews day three (John Marsden Fest)

Now a duo from John Marsden. Books two and three in the Tomorrow, When the War Began series.
The Dead of Night and A Killing Frost

 The basic premise: a group of Australian teens go camping. While they are away, their country is invaded by an army. The kids are at first shocked but eventually begin carrying out guerrilla warfare against the invaders. Don't forget, they're also still teenagers. They continue to deal with some of the stress, emotion, and drama of teenage life. Our narrator is Ellie, who not only relates what they're doing, but also catalogs the way their new life is changing them. She questions whether they can ever be innocent, child-like, again -- or if this is all in the past.

I am so loving this series, and I get why it is popular. Marsden is great at direct storytelling, lots of action, riveting experience, but also really exploring how the world has changed for Ellie and her friends. He is deft at portraying the subtle ways they are changing-- in some ways maturing, and in other ways hardening.

In both these books the kids finally run into another group. Once it happened I realized I'd been gunning for them to find someone else-- to find some adults, to have people to commiserate with, to find some solidarity. It's an experience I was longing for, for them, but what Marsden does with it is just incredible. He turns this longing on its head in a really incredible way. The portrayal of this other group Harvey's Heroes, particularly their leader, focuses on core issues of good and evil. Whether this is black and white, as they've all been taught, or whether in reality it's much more subtle.

By finally taking them out of their group you see just how fortunate they have been, how special their little group is.

Marsden keeps the action coming in these books, but he also explores deeper questions, about freedom, control, power, and community.

I highly recommend these books. This is a series of seven, and I'm looking forward to reading them all.  They are quick and exciting reads. Check them out.

What about you? Have you read them? What did you think? 


  1. I love this series too, I've always marvelled at how perfectly JM gets inside the head of a teenage girl! I must re-read these one day. I thought the film of book one was a good adaption too.

  2. Never read this series but it sounds awesome! :)

  3. I'm wary of getting sucked into a series right now but this sounds like such a fun premise: Lord of the Flies with guerilla warfare! Thanks for sharing, Katharine.
    - Sophia.

  4. Such. An. AWESOME. SERIES.

    I love that your spreading the Australian love. You know some schools there actually read this series in high school? FREAKING COOL, right?

    What I love most is that despite being from the 90s, you can't even tell. It hasn't "aged" at all.

  5. I've never read this series--I'll have to check it out!

  6. oh ~ i LOVE these books SO much I have completely lost all objectivity. I think first reading them when i was 13 and growing up with them has made the charatcers a part of my life. I am very nostalgic about these books ~ and re-read them often :)

    LOve that you featured them on here!

  7. I love these books! I taught the first one for a couple of years as part of my Year 10 English class and it was a total hit. They couldn't stop reading!

  8. I adore these books. They all came out when I was the same age as Ellie and her friends, and they're set in the very place I used to go camping and hiking. I've been lucky enough to hear John Marsden speak several times, and I just love his writing and this series in particular. The're fantastic, and very Australian. I'm so glad it translates!

  9. mummmazappa- no kidding! kind of incredible, really, that he does a teenage girl so well.

    pam and alicia, definitely check it out.

    Sophia- they are fast reads, and really well done.

    Susan- so true, it hasn't aged at all.

    Golden Eagle- do, you won't regret it.

    Nomes- :0)-- it was you who told me about them first! I'm so glad you did.

    How COOL Carrie, your students must love you!

    wow Amie- reminds me of Red Dawn, a kind of US movie version, which came out when I was in HS. Really cool. Marsden is SO good at what he does.


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