What would you do if you and your friends came back from a camping trip to find that your country had been invaded, your families locked up, and your homes taken over by foreign colonists? Blow a few things up, by chance?
Title: Tomorrow, When the War Began
Author: John Marsden
Publication Date: 1995, originally in Australia
Other Essentials: First in a series of 7
Grade Level: 8+
Availability: Owned by AC Library; In Print: paperback & CD
I cannot explain why this series has not caught on like a house afire in the U.S. because it surely did in Australia. Now taught in high-schools across the land down under (I can't imagine a teenager in the world who wouldn't love to be assigned this one), Tomorrow, When the War Began is non-stop, heart-racing action underpinned with soul-searching profundity.
The introspection is so successful due to the compelling protagonist, Ellie, a hard-working farm girl who at the beginning of the story, invites six friends on a camping trip in the bush. The revel in their autonomy, in a secret, nearly inaccessible wilderness nicknamed Hell. But while there, Australia is invaded by an unnamed nation and they return to their homes to find them completely abandoned, and their families imprisoned at the local fairgrounds. So Hell becomes their refuge, autonomy a curse, and the ordeal forges them into guerilla fighters. The transformation is utterly believable and compelling because these teenagers feel so authentic and so much like ourselves. When Ellie, who tries to maintain her leadership role in the group with courage and the development of a strategic lethal mindset, suffers from the soul-shattering effects of inflicting death, we can almost imagine the psychological trauma these sorts of experiences would have upon ourselves. Your definition of who you are must now include a person who can kill, and live with the consequences. Hopefully.
I might also add that the series is being made into a movie. More details in the next post.