Tomorrow, When the War Began

Tomorrow, When the War Began, John Marsden, 1993

  • Australia, #21
  • Paperback, Alibris, $0.99
  • Read December 2014
  • Rating: 2/5
  • Recommended for: teenagers, as long as they are fairly naïve and not sensitive to being talked down to.

I have a bit of a soft spot for YA adventure stories. I grew up on The Chronicles of Narnia and the Dark is Rising series. I’ve read all the Harry Potter books more times than I care to acknowledge (and I don’t have the excuse of childhood nostalgia–I only encountered them for the first time when I was a junior in college). I love the Hunger Games trilogy and I even plowed my way through Twilight and its successors. I’m not an aficionado of the genre by any means, but I think I’ve read enough to recognize good YA when I see it. Tomorrow, When the War Began is unfortunately not that good. I mean, it’s kind of like The Hunger Games but less compelling (TWTWB came first so it’s not an imitation, but given the choice I would read The Hunger Games every time). I don’t know, maybe Marsden kind of invented the teen post-apocalyptic genre (I can’t think of anything similar that came earlier–can you? Help me out in the comments, please!) in which case, props to him and he probably should be judged by a different standard, but still, I didn’t love it.

California, 2005

But I do love the teen protagonists and their can-do spirit; there’s a lot less angst and navel-gazing than you get from The Hunger Games and especially Twilight (oh god, the moaning in those books), and certainly less than I recall from my own adolescence. OK, let’s be honest, less than I probably indulge in now. I have no idea if it is, but I would like to imagine that this is an accurate reflection of the way Aussie teens actually are: tractor-driving, backroads-camping go-getters, cheerfully plotting insurrections while dealing briskly and logically with potential romantic entanglements. Faced with a full-scale invasion of their country and the imprisonment of all their families, they just get on with it and make a plan for getting their damn country back. You have to imagine Bella Swan going to pieces and spending twenty pages on hopeless introspection before some supernatural boy swoops in to save the day. I have to say the outgoing Ellie and her confident friends would have scared the shit out of me when I was an angst-ridden, socially awkward teenager, but now, after the recent deluge of emo teen literature, they’re kind of a breath of fresh air.

This is the first book of a series of seven. I’ve heard the books get better as the series goes on, so I may keep that in mind for a long plane ride in the future. Basically, Tomorrow, When the War Began was good enough that I might be willing to read another installment in the future…but not good enough that I’m in much of a hurry about it.

California, 2005

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