KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

KYDYAC

KYDYAC – Tomorrow, When The War Began by John Marsden

by Stephanie Van Schilt , August 13, 20129 Comments

Kicking off our final week of the KYD YA Championship with a bang, Kate O’Donnell pulls out the YA big guns with her discussion of John Marsden’s beloved Tomorrow, When the War Began.

As kids, we took the game Spotlight very seriously. Spread out through the bush in the dark, burrowed in damp leaf litter, or perched up a tree, trying not to laugh or breathe. Sometimes you’d be spotted and have to sit on a tree stump until some fast-running hero came and freed you and the game went on. It was cutthroat and, if not to the death, then to the bruise, graze and twisted ankle.

Then Tomorrow, When The War Began was released and I thought: this shit just got real. John Marsden’s novel – the first of the successful Tomorrow Series – quickly became one of the best and most popular books for teenagers and I’m convinced it’s the most significant Australian YA book of all time.

After all, it’s an adventure story, which is always going to appeal to readers and non-readers, and to girls as well as boys. Young people fighting enemy soldiers, living off the land, explosions, guns, combat? Those pages practically turn themselves. And, it made me pretty sure I could be a teenage guerrilla fighter too, especially given my mad Spotlight skills.

Marsden gave us Ellie, this kick-arse female protagonist who is ballsy and brave but tender underneath. He gave us a cast of characters we could identify with, a group of people we loved and cared about (and mourned for) as if they were really real.

And finally, the kicker: he set it in our backyard. The invasion of Australia by an unnamed country in Tomorrow was – and still is – so terribly, and frighteningly, believable.

The writing is direct, thoughtful and strong. Marsden has talked often of the way Ellie’s voice, and this story, came to him all at once. It’s also so authentically teenage and real. Through Ellie, Marsden never speaks down to his audience and he doesn’t shy away from packing an emotional punch. He delivers a swift kick to the heart, as well as the face.

Ellie’s powerful narration also made readers – at least this reader – first seriously consider the ethics and politics of war. She’s a country girl whose world has shattered overnight, who has to challenge her own concepts of right and wrong, of good and evil. I loved her for her contradictions, her guilt at not being captured, her terror, her bravery, her mistakes and her feelings of love and lust even during wartime.

For all the talking and feelings, the action scenes in Tomorrow still blow your mind. Tension sometimes builds like a slow burn, but then at other times we’re off in a terrifying split second. The attacks the group pull off might seem improbable to some, but because the reader is there as plans are made by capable farm kids with practical skills (and shotguns), the element of surprise and a whole lot of dumb luck – it’s all totally believable. Whether they’re blowing up ride-on mowers or bridges you can smell the diesel fuel, hear the bullets, feel the sweat and see the blood.

You all know what I’m talking about. You’ve read it. You debated who the occupying force might be. You flipped repeatedly and secretly to the sex scene in book two and cried when the amazing, terrible thing happens at the end of the third book. You imagined yourself in their situation, physically and emotionally.

And that’s the power of this book. In Tomorrow, When the War Began, it’s as though John Marsden took all of our games of Spotlight and gave them real consequences. From the moment when Ellie and the gang come back from Hell and find the dogs dead, their world has changed. And ours has changed too.

Kate O’Donnell works as a publishing assistant at Hardie Grant Egmont. She is an ex-bookseller, blogs at bean there, read that and tweets occasionally as @readingkate.

If you want Tomorrow, When The War Began to win the KYD YA Championship, you can cast your vote for it here! Vote now and you can also go into the draw to win some amazing prizes.




  • http://alphareader.blogspot.com/ Danielle Binks

    YES!

    One of my favourite things about this series (upon a second, closer reading) was that there is so much menacing mystery surrounding the invaders. It’s that great horror technique of not explaining too much about the monster, so that readers project their own fears onto the page. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

    John Marsden entirely changed my reading landscape. The first 2 books of his I read were ‘Checkers’, followed by ‘Letters From the Inside’ – and then I dived into the ‘Tomorrow’ series. Each and every time he sucker-punched me in the reading, but each and every time I felt better for having read his books.

    Great championing effort, Kate!

    • http://www.beantherereadthat.com Kate O’D

      Thanks!

  • http://www.misrule.com.au/wordpress Judith Ridge

    The link to Kate’s blog doesn’t seem to be working.

    • Stephanie Van Schilt

      Thanks Judith – fixed now. Sorry about that!

      Danielle – I agree with everything you say about Marsden changing your reading landscape. I vividly remember my Grade 4 teacher reading TWTWB to our class. It was the only time we were willfully and collectively still, quiet and completely engrossed. The creased pages of many a Marsden book accompanied me on school camps, were pleasantly required reading for school assignments or just favoured texts picked up for leisure. Each book from the ‘Tomorrow’ series – as well as the rest of his work – provided perspective and adventure where ever I went. TWTWB is the seminal Australian YA classic to me.

      Kate – thanks again for a wonderful post.

      • http://www.beantherereadthat.com Kate O’D

        Thanks Steph!

  • http://www.jordikerr.com Jordi

    ‘You debated who the occupying force might be. You flipped repeatedly and secretly to the sex scene in book two and cried when the amazing, terrible thing happens at the end of the third book. You imagined yourself in their situation, physically and emotionally.’
    Yes. This. So much! And as much so when I’ve re-read it as an adult, as when I was a teenager!

    Tomorrow When The War Began certainly stands the test of time, and has carved itself a very solid space in the history and identity of Australian YA. Great write-up, thank you, Kate.

    • http://www.beantherereadthat.com Kate O’D

      So glad I’m not actually the only one…

      Cheers, Jordi!

  • http://www.lisadempster.com.au lisa dempster

    Such a spot-on review, nice one Kate. MAN DO I LOVE THIS BOOK. The whole series, yes, but this book is the best, best, best. The dead dog scene = killer, one of the best scenes in Aussie lit ever imo. It still gets my right in the guts, every time.

    A remarkable YA book.

    • http://www.beantherereadthat.com Kate O’D

      Cheers, Lisa. I’m so glad you love it too!

9780733633782

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their July picks

Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

lead_960

James Tierney

I Call The Shots: The provocation of violent women

In a Western culture increasingly stripped of its old taboos, violent acts by women – real and imagined – still possess the genuine power to shock. Cultural representations of violent women can both affirm and react against the kind of pernicious questioning that posits women as fundamentally, and fatally, reactive. Read more »

9781925106510

Oliver Mol

July First Book Club: Read an excerpt from Oliver Mol’s Lion Attack!

At the Kill Your Darlings First Book Club event in July, Oliver Mol will discuss his debut memoir, Lion Attack!. Read an extract from this funny, energetic and original coming-of-age story, which interweaves stories from Oliver’s childhood in Texas and his young adulthood in Melbourne. Read more »

abortion

Rebecca Shaw

Choice Without Stigma: Dismantling the abortion taboo

Abortion is still illegal in the criminal code in Queensland – even in this, the Year of Our Beyoncé 2015. While women are unlikely to face practical obstacles to abortion due to the law, it can still cause isolation and unnecessary fear, and creates a stigma around the act. Read more »

17177200132_2383e88c36_k

Rebecca Shaw

Rage Against the Marriage: The inanity of same sex marriage debate in Australia

I am someone who is completely comfortable in my sexuality, and who classifies myself as the genus Lesbionisos. I am 100% certain that I am not abnormal, an abomination, or in any way inferior to heterosexual people. Sometimes I even secretly think non-heterosexuals might be superior. But I haven’t always been this assured. Read more »

clouds-of-sila-maria-1

Rebecca Shaw

The curse of the ‘gal pals’

As a well-known humourless, angry, hairy arm-pitted, feminist lesbian, I encounter daily issues that I can place on a scale from things that mildly irritate me all the way to things that completely offend me. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

tom-cruise-jack-reacher-premiere-postponed

Chris Somerville

A lit match in a box of wet dynamite: Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher

I first watched Jack Reacher a few years ago, in a spate of insomnia. The plot is a confused mess, both needlessly intricate and incredibly simple. I’m not going to go into it, mainly because I don’t actually know why the people in this movie do anything. Read more »

Partisan

Joanna Di Mattia

To experience the world with blinkers on: Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan

Partisan beautifully evokes that complex space between childhood and adulthood, when we start to question the worldview we have inherited – when we begin to see the world through our own eyes. It is both a coming-of-age story, and an innocence-coming-undone story. Read more »

3ab01d05-2590-4aa4-80f4-45fab0eccec4-2060x1236

Anwen Crawford

Heart of Darkness: UnREAL‘s ruthless reality

Everlasting, the show-within-a-show at the dark centre of new American television series UnREAL, is a fantasy blend of champagne cocktails, pool parties and true love. Everlasting is a Bachelor-style game show in which a dozen immaculately groomed women compete for a handsome millionaire husband, and its relationship to real life is, like any ‘reality’ show, non-existent. Nothing goes to air on Everlasting that has not been scripted, staged, and edited for maximum controversy. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

OITNB2

Anwen Crawford

Still in Prison: The limitations of Orange is the New Black

No, I haven’t binge-watched the entire new season of Orange Is The New Black in one sleepless, bleary-eyed frenzy. This season, the show’s third, doesn’t lend itself to that kind of viewing. The pace is slower, the cliff-hangers missing. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

2015GISELLE_Artists of The Australian Ballet. PhotoJeffBusby

Jane Howard

The Beautiful and the Dated: Australian Ballet’s Giselle

The weight of history sits heavily on the Australian Ballet’s Giselle. One of the most enduringly popular ballets from the romantic period, there is much to delight in its presence on stage and its lasting lineage. But 175 years after its debut, in a production that premiered 30 years ago, the sheen of Giselle has been dulled. Read more »

CrawlMeBlood_20150607_261_LoRes copy

Jane Howard

Adhocracy: Lifting the curtain on the creative process

Every June long weekend I wrap myself up in several extra layers and make my way to the Waterside Worker’s Hall in Port Adelaide for Adhocracy, Vitalstatistix’s annual hothouse that brings together artists from around the country for a weekend of creative development. Read more »

Orlando #2 - THE RABBLE

Jane Howard

This Is a Story of Artistic Excellence

This is a story of the first four plays I saw at Malthouse Theatre. It’s a story that can only continue as long as support for independent artists continues; it’s a story that can only keep growing as long as support for independent artists grows. It’s a story of where artistic excellence comes from, and how we get to see it on our main stages. Read more »