Jessica's Reviews > Tomorrow, When the War Began

Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
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Mar 22, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, fierce-ladies, war, ya, guts-you, reviewed-books, pretty-prose, aussies
Read from March 13 to 15, 2011


**I find myself giving weird, abstract, and emotionally-based reviews for books that have billions of reviews saying pretty similar things to each other. So forgive me for this weird, abstract, and emotional review. I do agree with the others—this book is an incredible social commentary on war, and you’ll be on the edge of your seat, etc. blah blah

After reading this book for the first time, I watched the recent movie adaptation. In doing so I realized, with shocking clarity, what the story isn’t about. It’s not about teens defying the enemy and fighting the good fight—music swelling as they gather like a small glorious army in front of the camera, guns cocked and ready. The movie, by trimming the story down to a short 90 min, really tried to push that image, I think. I felt like they had gone down a list and ticked off the “important” events and lines from the book. Tweaked a few things here and there, cut things occasionally, but in the end tried to remain “faithful”. But the most powerful moments in this book aren’t the explosions or the planning or the little romances. It’s someone crying out “like a wounded bird” after her house is demolished. It’s the helplessness that feeds on the characters (“If we do this, if we succeed, I'll be able to feel pride again”). It’s the looks that are shared quickly and quietly. It’s these brief moments in between the action, the reactions that come from these broken people that feel so startlingly real I have to catch my breath.

I’ll admit, the first book of the series seems to be the most “action movie”-esque of the series. The full weight of the events has yet to truly devastate and eat away at the characters. You could still describe them as whole—shocked, yes, and battered, but whole. These teens aren’t dumbed down, thankfully, but none of them are typical flawless action heroes either, despite their cleverness and defiance. They feel real and complicated and brave and scared and falling apart all at the same time. John Marsden writes Ellie so convincingly, I never once doubted her voice, never doubted that Ellie once existed somewhere, still exists, will exist. Her faults are painted red and raw and it’s sad that some readers dislike her because of that.

I seriously think Mockingjay helped prepared me for this series. It’s such a heartbreaking relief to discover more YA that doesn’t tie things up nicely or have people act and feel in artificial ways. Because actions and feelings are messy, and John Marsden knows that. He wants you to know it, too, even if you don’t like it.

If you’re looking for an action-packed story about heroes with good guys and bad guys and an ending you can see coming from a mile away, don’t bother with the Tomorrow series. But if you want a story about human beings in full display of their brokenness, please read this series. It’ll rip your heart out and shake you up. And we need that once and awhile, don’t we?

p.s. I put this book on my "favorites" shelf as a symbolic gesture to represent the whole series. I feel like all of the books are too short anyway, so I think of them as one giant story.
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Reading Progress

03/13 page 68
25.0% "This book just got crazy."
03/15 page 230
83.0% "In love."
03/14 marked as: read

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