Review: The Tomorrow Series by John Marsden
I started reading these books at the suggestion of Nomes (my guide to all things Aussie, especially lit). I loved book one, Tomorrow When the War Began, immediately.
Here's the basic premise: A group of Aussie teenagers take a week-long camping trip in the bush (woods/outback to us). When they return to civilization their country has been invaded by an enemy army, almost everyone has been captured, and they are in a quandary-- should they turn themselves in, go and try to wait it out in the bush... or try to help the war effort.
I still cannot believe that the main character POV, Ellie Linton, is written by an adult man. He perfectly captures the feelings and thoughts of a teenage girl. Ellie is no princess, growing up on a farm in rural Australia means she can do all kinds of cool things like kill and clean a lamb, or drive a piece of heavy machinery... or find her way around building some simple explosives. But she's still such a typical girl in her feelings about her parents, her friends, and even the boy she crushes on. In addition, her development over the books is spot on-- of course all of this guerrilla work takes a toll on all of the kids, and she voices it beautifully.
So, I loved the first book-- what took me so long to read them all? Simple cost, I'm afraid. Never do I feel flush enough to purchase a seven-book series. I had made my way through the first three books over the last year... but that was as far as I'd gotten. That is until I (yay!) won Meredith's birthday giveaway-- an Amazon gift certificate. So I purchased the remaining books on my kindle, and flew through them this week.
They were so amazing-- every bit as good as the first one. Here's why (in my humble opinion).
1. The kids DO decide to help the war effort-- but their efforts at "going commando" ALWAYS come off as realistic and believable. The skills they use are totally skills these kids have anyway or can reasonably develop (for example, the farm kids can all shoot pretty well, and the others learn to over time). That being said, most of their sabotage is not due to "shoot 'em up" skills-- they are not heavily armed because, again, that wouldn't make a lot of sense. These are still teenagers, and they are fighting an army. Sometimes they manage to do what professionals have failed to simply because of their real-life farm-related skill set, because they know the landscape so well, because they become so great at communicating with each other, and due to being in the right place at the right time.
2. I also think the books work so well because they're action packed (I mean, Hunger Games-level action-packed), but don't feel like a poorly-written action movie. I like action movies as much as anyone else... but I wouldn't want to READ one. The point is, action films are visual animals. In the post HG world, I have read a few books that seem to be trying to write a YA action movie and "this little book issue" is just a stepping stone. Lots of action, the flashier the better, little substance, terribly predictable dialog and endings, thin logic, etc. Yes, I can see them as movies (and they'll probably make great movies), but reading them makes me bored in a way. No, bored isn't the right word. When I go to the doctor's office I will read the worst types of celebrity magazines, the kinds I don't ever buy or read at home. After 20 minutes of reading those I feel charged up, a little headachy, my brain is full... but of nothing, really. That's how those books made me feel. And that is exactly NOT how the Tomorrow series made me feel.
3. Underneath it all, you never lose sight of Ellie as a teenage girl. She internalizes everything that happens to her in the most realistic way. There's one point, where she's talking about a childhood friend-- and she begins to describe something they did together as kids-- an anecdote, really. But then she fills page after page with these anecdotes, and as it builds it becomes more heartbreaking. She's not just telling you, the reader, that she had a friend, and that the friend was special. She's showing you beyond a doubt that this friend was a critical part of her life-- a dearer and truer friend than most of us will ever know. A friend that is gone now, who will never come back.
I cannot recommend these books enough. They are a fast read, but so wonderfully done.
**Do note, if you get the Kindle versions-- there's something weird about the way they digitize them-- I don't know how that process works, but instead of just photocopying them in, it's almost like a computer has tried to read and interpret the words. There were several places as I read where I could tell the wrong word had been put in. For example, they kept talking about a character named "Come" and I just couldn't remember who that was. It took me half a kindle book to realize they meant Corrie, but the "rri" had been digitized as an "m". If you do read it as a Kindle book, there may be some words that need interpretation.
Have you read The Tomorrow series? What did you think?