A guest post by Kylee Unrau.
I grew up in a tiny town that had a tiny library. Every year, they would buy a few new books they thought the students would enjoy, and most of the time I was the only one to read these new books. One book they bought was called Tomorrow, When the War Began, by John Marsden.
I was hooked from the first page, and continued to devour the next four books in the series when the librarians purchased them. The basic premise of the series is that a group of teenagers in Australia decide to go on a camping trip over their summer break (which, since it’s in Australia, is just after Christmas) to a remote area they don’t think anyone has been to in a hundred years. While they’re camping, their country gets taken over by a foreign power that hopes to steal Australia’s overabundance of resources and share it more equally among their people. Since these teenagers aren’t in a civilized area and no one knows exactly where they went, they manage to not get captured, and start planning how to free their families, or escape, or just survive without being caught by soldiers. Aside from being fascinating by the cultural and language differences (they call chickens “chooks” and bathrooms “dunnies”), these books also had humour, adventure, and real emotion as well as a smart and sarcastic leading female and well-rounded characters.
I’ll warn you, if you’re a fan of young adult dystopian fiction, prepare to be frustrated when you go on your desperate search to find this series.
After reading the first four books, I guess the author wasn’t finished writing the rest, so I waited for a few years for my library to order the remaining titles. This didn’t happen before I left high school, and I continued to think of these books well into my university years, right up until this last year when I realized I should just buy this series myself since I couldn’t stop thinking about them and wanted to know how Ellie and her friends fared.
I used to work at a bookstore, and I would recommend this series to people and then promptly apologize because I knew they would be completely addicted to the first book, and then probably never be able to find the rest. Chapters, usually my go-to place for books (I assumed they were the gods of the Canadian book market) only carried the first and second book. Chapters couldn’t even order in my books from the publisher! EBay didn’t have them. Another big local retailer didn’t carry them. No one I’d ever spoken to had even heard of them, even though they seemed to be a big deal Down Under. There’s even a movie based on the first book, and yet they don’t seem to be available in Canada!
Even Amazon, the internet mogul that sells everything, didn’t appear to have them until I did some digging on the American Amazon store and was able to set up an account and find them from some various and slightly sketchy sounding sellers (I bought the seven books in the series from four different sellers). Luckily, my parents often buy things from across the border and have an address there to which they were able to ship the books. Of course, they didn’t all come at the same time, so I waited, watching my tracking numbers diligently, until they finally all showed up as delivered! My mum and I made the hour-and-a-half drive across the border, and eighty dollars plus gas and custom fees later, I had all seven of The Tomorrow Series in my hands.
As curious as I was, I had to start over from the beginning before finding out what happened in the later books. As much as my reading tastes have matured over the years, these books did not disappoint. I still loved all the characters, and the plot was exciting and well-written. There are a few things that are pretty typical teen-lit, and there are a few things that bothered me in the plot (the author never reveals which country has invaded Australia and there are a few unanswered questions about love interests and missing characters; the books are also a bit outdated in regards to technology), but most of these things seem to be woven in to make the reader keep thinking about the series long after they’ve finished the final chapter. What would you do if society broke down around you and you had to either survive, surrender, or try to change things? And who are the real bad guys? I found that even though these books are fast paced and adventurous, with just the right amount of explosions and romance to keep both teenage boys and girls on the edge of their seats, there’s still more than enough insight into humanity and growing up to make it relatable to adults as well.
I highly recommend this series if you can find it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Kylee Unrau is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg with majors in both English and Theatre. She enjoys fantasy and scifi, horseback riding and video games, tea and coffee (most people prefer one or the other. I say, “Bring on the caffeine!”). Kylee hates Winnipeg winters and loves bonfires and camping.