‘Tomorrow’ Series | Review

I was introduced to the ‘Tomorrow’ series in grade 9 English. We were assigned to read the first book and our assessment task was to write fanfiction from it.

In the time that the class was given to get through the book, I had read through the first 5. I was hooked. It’s been 5 years and I still have a deep love for this series.

Premise:

The 8 book series follows a group of teenagers from a rural NSW town. They go on a camping trip to the middle of no-where, the locals call the spot ‘Hell’. A few days in, Australia gets invaded by another country, which they don’t realise until the try to return home at the end of the week. The book is treated as a diary, written by one of the group members and details everything they go through from her perspective.

The first book of the series sets the tone for the rest. The shock of finding their homes abandoned, pets dead, and foreign soldiers around the town is heart wrenching and vivid. Their goals stay the same for the entire series: stay alive, stay free, and do as much as they can to resist the enemy soldiers. All of those goals have varying degrees of success at times.

Each book could be summed up with a new attempt at resistance. It’s all guerrilla style, at the hands of a bunch of untrained teens, occurring in many different ways. Without spoiling anything, I can say that there’s a lot of blowing up of many types of important infrastructure.

Characters:

Ellie Linton is the main character of the series, and is one of my all time favourite characters. She’s the leader of the group, and could definitely be classed as a ‘strong female character’. But she’s so much more than that. She’s is shown to misjudge, make mistakes, and have weaknesses. She’s witty, resourceful, passionate and caring.

There are 7 other people in the group over the course of the series. Although some are in less books than others, as fleshed out as the next, with unique strengths, personalities and back-stories. Some are more likable for others. It is a biased narrative, you see them all from Ellie’s perspective, but she cares and respects them all.

I could go on and on about each of the characters, but I really want to mention Fiona Maxwell (Fi) as an example of the wonderful characterizations.
At the start of the series, she’s casual friends with Ellie, and invited to the fateful camping trip on a whim. She’s one of the only members of the group not brought up on a farm, she’s from the town and has a rich, posh family.
Marsden could have easily written Fi as a stereotypical rich blond ‘bitch’, that exists as comic relief and to contrast how bad-ass, strong and ‘not like other girls’ Ellie is. But she wasn’t.
Ellie states multiple times throughout the series that she believes Fi is the emotionally and mentally strongest one out of them all. It’s Fi, who freaks out at small things like snakes or slaughtering of a sheep, but who stays calm and level headed in times that they’re in soldier territory, or at critical moments of their guerrilla attacks. It’s Fi that Ellie clings onto for hours as support after a particular traumatic event.

When we were reading the book in class, there were the inevitable comments about me sharing a name with this character, followed by comparisons between us. I distinctly remember telling a classmate ‘No way, I’m nothing like her’. Five years and a lot of re-reading and internal-misogyny fighting later, I’d be flattered to be associated with Fi-the-character.

Why I love it:

I love a good explosion as much as the next person, but it’s not the action-packed guerrilla heists that really win this series over to me. It’s the small details in the story-line and excellent characterization. It’s not all running around, blowing shit up. They spend a lot of time in ‘Hell’- their original, secluded camp ground, just trying to survive, physically and mentally.

One of the things I respect the most about this series is that the nationality of the invading country is never mentioned. The skin colour and facial features of the enemy soldiers are never mentioned. According to people who have analysed the book much more than I have, the small clues that could give an indication to the nationality don’t match any one country. It would have been very easy for Marsden to just name a country, and no-one would have blinked an eye at the inevitable stereotyping + racism. (Look to a majority of Hollywood movies for this- including, unfortunately the Tomorrow movie. That’s a whole other tangent.)

On that note, there’s no overt patriotism ideology coming from these books. It’s commented quite early on that it’s almost inevitable that the invasion happened, giving Australia’s bountiful resources and selfish politicians/general public. When carrying out the heists, the motivation of the group is to help the anti-invasion efforts to save their friends and families.

Nothing is glorified, and we get front row seats to the mental and physical effects on Ellie via her first-person narrative. Remorse and guilt is felt for every soldier’s life she has to take in hot-blood, and she gets small reminders throughout the series that the ‘enemy’ are real people too.
The effects of war are particularly felt in the main character deaths- yes, there are a few. Won’t spoil who, where or how, but they are all emotional and unfair.

And I think that’s why I like the Tomorrow series so much. You really feel like it’s believable. There’s no miracles, no special equipment or ‘handy’ skills. Just a bunch of teenagers relying on past experiences and luck to help them succeed- which, a lot of the time, they  don’t. The diary-like prose immerses you straight into the story, and I find myself getting goosebumps, and sometimes, a slightly-nauseous stomach while reading.
I don’t know how many times I’ve re-read them, but I still start put them down once I start. I highly recommend picking up the first book and giving the series a try!

Are you a Tomorrow series fan? Is there a book series you’ve consistently loved over a long period of time? Let me know!
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6 comments

  1. This sounds great!

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  2. I absolutely love the Tomorrow series and thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.
    I really liked the way Fi’s character was developed as well..it was done realistically and they gave her enough time.
    Homer was my favourite character. This was one of the few books the got my adrenaline racing, my tears flowing and even laughing out loud.
    Did you end up reading the Ellie Chronicles? I never really got into it.

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    1. Thank you!
      Yeah, same. She wasn’t immediately like that when they were thrust into the situation, but all the times Ellie was weak she was strong. I think that’s why they make such a good team.
      I did read the Ellie Chronicles, in the hope that it would be less depressing than the end of the Tomorrow series. And it did the exact opposite. They’re quite different to the Tomorrow series, but have the same depressing + adrenaline pumping moments. I think they were even more realistic, really showing how the country + people are trying to recover from the war, that there’s no magic ‘off’ switch and everything is back to normal.
      I still much prefer the Tomorrow series though!

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  3. […] think I covered my love for Tomorrow When the War Began pretty well here, and John Marsden is definitely an auto-buy author for me. I enjoyed the Ellie Chronicles […]

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  4. […] I think I covered the excellent-ness of the female characters in the Tomorrow series here. […]

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  5. This sounds really interesting! I’ll definitely look out for the first book in the series 🙂

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