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I am a massive fan of young adult fiction, and not just because I teach literacy in a young offender's prison, but the quite often dark and morally ambiguous content appeals to me and my imagination. It is a decade long love affair, and it was this book that started it all.
On the hunt for one last summer adventure Ellie and seven of her closest friends go camping in 'Hell', out of the watchful eyes of parents, and indeed out of sight of most people in such an isolated area. They have a trip to remember, but the real journey doesn't begin until they return home to find war has broken out and all those that they care about and love the most have been taken prisoner. Loved family pets are dead and people are missing, and it falls to these teenagers to fight not only for their own survival and freedom but that of all those they love the most.
I devoured this book when I was living the dream travelling around Australia for a few months. I found a room with a balcony that had sun until the very last seconds of daylight and reading there was one of my most favourite things to do. Having inhaled the five books I had taken with me, I saw this book in a second hand book shop, and shockingly, I bought it because I liked the cover...! (I know, I know!!) I devoured this book in one sitting and the ending ruined three days of my trip to Oz, because I spent almost the entirety of those three days trying to find a bookshop that had the second book in stock! I eventually had to order it in and wait two days for it's arrival, which honestly was like waiting for Christmas. The ending of the first book absolutely wrecked me, (I won't spoil it don't panic...) and made it essential for me to get hold of as many of the books in The Tomorrow Series as possible, and I've bought every subsequent book on its release date ever since. You can judge me, but until you read Tomorrow When The War Began you won't understand the effect of this book. It gets under your skin, and you begin to bond with the characters as if you were there with them, hiding from every soldier, forced into making every harrowing decision with them.
Written in first person, from the point of view of the main female character Ellie Linton, Tomorrow When The War Began is the first book in a series of seven, later extended by the addition of The Ellie Chronicles, a further three books detailing Ellie's life after the war. Dealing with romance and growing up whilst coming to terms with fighting for their lives and for the lives of their family and friends who are being held at the Showground, it is a stark and rather brutal coming of age tale for the young characters. It deals with the changing bonds and breakdowns of the relationships within the group, and we come to see each character change, develop and grow, sometimes not for the best, but always essential for their survival. There are times when I found myself irritated with characters and their actions, but was forced to ask what I would do in that situation, where it was my life or the life of an enemy. It is genuinely heart-wrenching stuff.
This book genuinely is so well written, with rounded characters, snappy chapters and an addictive storyline. There are a lot of very good reasons that this book has won seven awards and has been listed on so many 'Top 100 teen books' lists. It's been translated into a few languages and it's one of the best loved books over the pond in Oz. If you aren't already convinced to rush out and buy a copy, then the link below has a sample of the opening chapter to tickle your fancy too.
Now I know not everyone will love this book quite as much as I do (I accept it's quite possibly a tad unhealthy...) but you can't deny the sheer storytelling genius evident in this book. It has honestly stood the test of time and I love it as much now on what is probably my thirtieth reading (I go from book one, to the finale book and back again... over and over... and over) and I've actually just ordered a replacement copy, because this one is worn out... should say quite a lot.
Also published on Ciao under the username Welshjellybean.