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Tomorrow When the War Began    by John Marsden order for
Tomorrow When the War Began
by John Marsden
Order:  USA  Can
Laurel Leaf, 1996 (1995)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is the first of the Tomorrow series, which pits a group of seven Australian teenagers against an enemy whose forces have invaded their country and imprisoned their families. One of the young women, Ellie, tells their story, which begins when they persuade their parents to allow them to take the Landrover for a campout in Hell. This is not quite what it sounds. Hell is a wild place, 'a cauldron of boulders and trees and blackberries and feral dogs and wombats and undergrowth', reputed to have been inhabited by a Hermit.

These are good, caring friends with just the right shading of teen attitude and romantic involvement. They succeed in discovering a hidden track into Hell, enjoy their days camping, and return to a different world, in which their homes are deserted except for neglected, dying animals, and there is neither electricity nor radio. Luckily they get cautious before they are caught and, with some close calls, manage to organize a refuge and even to strike back. They are all afraid but they rely on each other. They also think, and argue about, the morality of their own actions.

It's an exciting story, well told, and the author does an excellent job of bringing out the different personalities of these young people. He shows how individuals mature and how their perceptions of each other change under extreme pressure. He also shares with the reader their evolving views and philosophies - Robyn whose faith is deepened, Homer the hooligan who becomes a leader, and Ellie who finds new depth in her friends and who tells their story. As she says 'We believed we were safe. That was the big fantasy. Now we know we're not ... and so it's bye-bye innocence. It's been nice knowing you, but you're gone now.'

Don't miss this series - it's off to a strong start in Tomorrow When the War Began, and I'm anxious to find out how these teen resistance fighters cope in subsequent books.

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