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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review: The Tomorrow Series by John Marsden

The premise here is pretty simple. Ellie Linden and her five friends go off for a weekend in the Australian bush. No parents. No rules. Just time spent with friends and some fun exploring. But when Ellie returns home, she discovers her parents gone, her farm destroyed, and her town invaded. Australia is at war, and Ellie must go into hiding to save herself.

Or you know, get some revenge.

The Hunger Games has no hold over The Tomorrow Series when it comes to killing and violence. NOT that I'm all gung ho over death and destruction, but just so you know, there aren't a lot of pink posies in this series. People die, buildings get blown up, and crimes of war are committed. The things these characters face will make you forever grateful that you live in a peaceful society and maybe a little guilty that some others don't.  For most of all 7 books, we don't know what Ellie will face when the war finally ends. Will her parents be alive? Will she lose her home? Will the fact that she's killed someone mean that she'll never be herself again? Ellie spends a lot of time asking these questions and dozens of others. I enjoyed that aspect of it because they're the type of questions you don't normally get in a young adult novel. Yet, if I were to pinpoint the one thing that made me continue with the whole series, it would have to be Ellie's character.

Not to say that city people are soft, but if I were in a situation where I had to survive on my own, outsmart my enemy and maybe even take a few down, I'd want someone like Ellie on my side. As the daughter of a sheep farmer, she KNOWS things, like how to drive a big payload truck, start a dirt bike, build a fire, and especially how NOT to get lost in the bush. Nothing unnerves this girl, and while at times it may have seemed like things always went her way, I never felt that her knowledge was beyond her background. Aside from her capabilities though, Ellie's just got loads of strength. Her courage is tested again and again, and somehow she always manages to dig up a little more when it seems there shouldn't be any left. I know that I would have just given up, given myself over to the enemy or to God in that situation. Ellie doesn't. She fights on. She's a character worth cheering for.


The supporting characters in this series are also well-crafted with memorable personalities and yes, flaws. Lots of them. Homer is a bit of a male chauvinist and a know-it-all, but he's also a terrific co-leader (the picture above is of Ellie and Homer from the movie, which I haven't seen yet, but oh do I want to!!). Fi is about as girly as her name implies, but her tender heart is sometimes just what the gang needs. Lee. Whoa. What a love interest. He's hot and then he's not. He's sweet but then sometimes he's the king of all jerks. And just when you think you're done with him, he turns Casanova again. Definitely tops on my list for swoon-worthy male characters. Then there were the minor characters, some in the beginning of the series and others who came later in book 6 and 7. I enjoyed them all. Unfortunately not all of them make it through Marsden's war, but that's also what gives the book a feeling of reality that I appreciated.



The war itself - it's interesting how Marsden was able to build an entire series around an enemy who is never named. There isn't much to say about them except that Mardsen did his best to make us hate them, perhaps a little too much. There were times when I thought the enemy could have been given more depth instead of making them into THE BIG EVIL. The initial act of invading another country for the soul purpose of stealing their lands was enough to make the reader dislike them, but Marsden always seems to be inventing new ways of making us hate them even more. Small aside: I suffered more than one moment of the giggles when the enemy called the kids "naughty" for doing some heinous act of sabotage. They blew something up, they were naughty. They wrecked thousands of dollars worth of aircraft and they were "naughty". It was a little thing, but one that made me laugh every time I heard it.


The series is 7 books long, and although I loved the series as a whole, the first book was probably my least favorite. It's very repetitive, slow moving, and often we get information second hand so that much of the excitement is lost. This bothered me in the first book, but in the other books I didn't notice it as much. As the series progresses though, the guerrilla attacks staged by the kids become more destructive and ultimately more exciting. They don't win every time, which is a good thing for reality's sake, and there are some other events thrown into the mix (such as rescuing orphans) to shake things up a bit. I appreciated that. Not every book was the same and I was always getting thrown surprises. I did always know that Ellie was going to come out on top - it was written in 1st person so that was kind of a given - but I enjoyed the ride nonetheless. Ultimately, the series has that special something that equates it to other save the world type series that make the kids into heroes, only in a contemporary setting. I haven't seen many YA books of that type, and I appreciated Marsden's attempt to do it. It was a bit predictable, but then again, so was Harry Potter. The ride was definitely worth getting to the ending.

Verdict: Recommended!

ETA: I changed my ending a bit here after DD's comment. I didn't want to come off as saying that the series was a realistic portrayal of war because as DD pointed out, it's more of an adventure series.

7 comments:

Bee said...

I liked how you reviewed the series, as a whole. And thanks for the heads up about the first book being the least likable, so we don't give up too soon into the series.
I keep hearing the Aussie readers talk about this, but I haven't gotten round to reading this.
Maybe I'll read a tough war story for a change. It's just the 7 book long thing that's been putting me off.

TheDyslexicDog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheDyslexicDog said...

It’s not really a war story; real life war is nothing like the war in the novels. It’s more a gritty adventure story (definition; escapism > realism, but the outlandish action has realistic consequences) with the trappings of a war story. Like how Casino Royale is a gritty adventure story with espionage trappings.

A word of warning, don’t read the Ellie Chronicles as they’re kind of a letdown. However, I definitely recommend reading some of Marsden’s other non-tomorrow books. I really liked “Letters from the Inside” (don’t look this up or read any reviews, it’s best to go into this book with no idea what to expect and let it grab you the heart and then tear your heart to pieces) and “Checkers”. I’m not sure how easy it is to get those books outside Australia though.

Angie said...

Good point, DD. I haven't decided yet if I want to read the Ellie Chronicles yet. Thanks for the heads up. :)

Erin Brambilla said...

This sounds really interesting. I'm digging the survival books lately--like The Hunger Games and Ashes--so this sounds like a good series.

Maybe I'll learn something because if I were placed in situations like this, I would so be a goner.

KO: The Insect Collector said...

I'm about halfway through and I love these books. So fascinating! And I'm dying to see the film, but netflix doesn't have it.

Angie said...

KO - I so so want to see the film. That would really bring the books to life for me. I mean I can imagine just fine, but it's hard to get your head to hear a real Aussie accent, you know? Glad you're enjoying the books!

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