Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tomorrow, when the War Began - John Marsden

This book by Australian author John Marsden is regarded as a classic in it's native country and is taught extensively in Australian schools. The first in a seven book sequence it deals with the effect on a group of teenage friends of returning from a week of going bush (camping out away from civilisation in the Australian bush) to find their homes and towns empty of people and livestock, their pets dead and their country invaded by an unknown foreign force. Families, friends and townspeople are being held in a makeshift camp where the celebrations for Commemoration Day had been held.

Marsden's teenagers are educated but are, at the beginning of the book, more concerned with their friends and potential romantic connections than the strident voices issuing from the TV and radio. This all changes as they return from their trip to Hell to find that a version of hell has landed in their front yard.

Marsden's novel ticks all the right boxes for young adult literature dealing as it does with growing up, change and self discovery, where it triumphs however is in it's portrayal of teenagers as being thoughtful, concerned by the consequences of their actions and being able to see many sides to an issue. This is no gung-ho flag draped all action adventure but a hard look at the reaction to war/invasion by those who haven't really been interested in politics and current affairs and are forced to reassess their relevance to them.

The essential question that Marsden asks is what would you do? Hide, surrender or fight. The group of friends decide to fight for their country and society, from that moment on they have to grow and change to accommodate their new roles and experience.

It is a book that has great relevance in today's world, almost 20 years after it was published, for a generation that also considers that the strident voices issuing from TV and radio and politics has no relevance to them. In fact, the book is asking the biggest of questions of it's teenagers and the society in which they live, particularly now. What are you going to do? Hide, surrender or fight (figuratively not literally of course) for your country and the type of society you want to live in.

Originally published in Australia in 1993 the book has held up well to almost 20 years of technological advancement (the absence of ipods, ipads and mobiles goes almost unnoticed). No longer in print in Ireland, if you can root out a copy it would be well worth it for a well written account of real teens facing tough choices rather than easy actions with no consequences (nobody dies or is hurt badly).


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