Tomorrow, When the War Began

By: John Marsden
The Tomorrow Series Book 1
Rating: 3.5/5

Tomorrow, When the War Began

Have you heard of Tomorrow, When the War Began?

I hadn’t.

I think it’s because it’s Australian, to be honest. But it’s a whole series, with movies and everything, a la Divergent or Hunger Games or Maze Runner or pick your YA action series.




The COOLEST thing about this book? It is NOT SCI FI. Yeah. You heard me.

This is a young adult action book that This blew my mind. I spent 3/4 of the book waiting for the aliens to be revealed or for the futuristic weapons to come out or the genetic modification to rear its ugly head or vampires or zombies or witches or werewolves or name your trope. But no. This was oh so real.

Tomorrow is a book about a crew of Australian kids who happen to miss out on the straight up invasion of their country. They return from a camping trip to find their entire town completely overrun with an unidentified enemy military (good call, Marsden, on not pinning this on any particular country). In true teen nature, they have all heard the rumors of political discord, but have paid as little attention as possible. Until now, when they have to.

Unsure whether this is World War III or something on a slightly smaller scale, the kids have to take stock and figure out a) what the hell is going on and b) what the hell to do about it. It’s eerie in its possibility. There’s a super obvious passage where Ellie, the main character, ruminates:

No, Hell wasn’t anything to do with places, Hell was all to do with people. Maybe Hell was people.

Somebody’s read their Sartre.

But I think that’s the whole point, for Marsden. None of this is inevitable; we live in a Hell of our own making.

I spent the first fourth or so of this book bored. I also very much so had to get past the mental image of James Marsden writing this… It’s John, Sara. John not James. The beginning is just a kitschy teenage gallivant to the woods for a couple of days before the real world of school sets in again. And then – wham – out of nowhere, this book picks up the pace tenfold.

It’s pretty good! I mean… it’s definitely still YA. But I wound up enjoying it, and certainly wanting to read the second book, which is the mark of any good series. (Big confession…. I still don’t get the title. I read the whole damn book and I don’t get the title. Help.)

There was a point where I caught myself rolling my eyes that the fate of an entire city (and potentially country) would come down to a group of 16-or-so-year-olds. But at the same time in my life I have also been reading about the Vietnam War protests and it seems suddenly not so crazy to think of very young citizens making big moves for their country.

I am so curious if I’m the only one who missed this book, or if the rest of America needs to open up their eyes to the Australia scene too. Can you even name another Australian book?


Well, this one is worth a shot, certainly!




Want more like Tomorrow?

(for more by Marsden)

The Dead of Night by John Marsden

While I Live by John Marsden

The Head Book by John Marsden

Winter by John Marsden

(for books mentioned by Ellie – she’s a well-read, pre-Internet teen)

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

(for other YA action)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Lord of the Flies by William Golding


Coming up: 

Letters of a Nation by Andrew Carroll

See Me by Nicholas Sparks

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

The Trial by Franz Kafka

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