Tomorrow When The War Began is the first in a series of Young Adult novels by Australian author John Marsden. It has become a popular text for study in Australian schools, particularly for years 9 and/or 10, so I thought I'd write a quick introduction and review.
I loved the Tomorrow series as a teenager. I remember waiting impatiently each year or so for the next novel to come out and devouring it as soon as it did. I remember the excitement involved in reading a series based on kids my age playing a part in saving their country. I remember how realistic it all was, and how well Marsden managed to create a powerful connection between his readers and the characters. I loved the fact that the main protagonist was a smart and straight-forward Australian female, and I remember getting so emotionally involved with the story that I would air-punch at their triumphs and grieve at their losses.
However, I have to admit that the series did introduce me to some pretty adult concepts that I was not ready for, and that my parents, had they read the novels first, would have been appalled by. As such, I would thoroughly recommend that parents read Tomorrow When the War Began, and the other books in the series, before they allow their children to do so, and consider the content in terms of how it might affect a teenager. Also, more specifically, I would not recommend it for young students; I recently had a year 4 student telling me how she had been reading The Hunger Games, which is highly inappropriate for nine year olds, and so I thought perhaps a warning about the content of this book might be necessary.
Though there are no sex scenes in the first novel (there is one in the second), sex is clearly a theme in the book. This is unsurprising, as it is a book written by an adult male about and supposedly from the perspective of teenagers. There is also a significant level of violence and some other additions, including some offensive language, that may concern some parents. As such, I thoroughly recommend that parents read the novels for themselves to determine whether they consider them to be appropriate for their child to read. Looking back at the novel/series from my current understanding of children and behavioural development, I don't think I'll be allowing my children to read these books until they are at least 16, preferably 17 years old, regardless of school English programs/units.
Introduction to the novel and some of its themes and concepts (extract from model response in Tomorrow When the War Began study package):
"Perseverance and courage are primary themes in this novel. The story is about a small group of teenagers, who on returning from a four day campout discover their families, and in fact the entire community, have gone missing. It does not take long to discover that Australia has been invaded from an unnamed country from "the north" and the whole town is being held hostage in a large prisoner of war camp. All communication with the outside world has been cut off, which causes the characters and reader alike to question whether anyone is coming to their aid. The story revolves around these teenagers' personal survival and their decision to wage a war of insurgency against the enemy. 'Tomorrow When the War Began' is an adventure/thriller that can only be described as a page turner.
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