Audiobook Review: Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

tomorrowTitle: Tomorrow, When the War Began
Author: John Marsden
Genre: YA dystopian fiction
Publisher: Scholastic
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Suzi Dougherty
First line: It’s only half an hour since someone – Robyn I think – said we should write everything down, and it’s only twenty-nine minutes since I got chosen, and for those twenty-nine minutes I’ve had everyone crowded around me gazing at the blank page and yelling ideas and advice.

When I read a positive review of a YA novel on a blog, I always click over to my library web site and see if they have it on audio. I’ve found that YA is a perfect genre on audio for my workouts at the gym – it gets into the story quickly and is usually less than 10 CDs long. I saw John Marsden’s Tomorrow, When the War Began on a list of dystopian novels and I was in luck – the library had it on audio. It was a terrific listen and perfect for pedaling the bike at the gym, as the action kept moving right along and the narrator was engaging.

Tomorrow, When the War Began is the story of seven high schoolers on their Christmas holiday from school. They decide to “go bush” for five days, heading in a Land Rover up Taylor’s Stitch, then hiking into Hell, a deserted wilderness rumored to be the home of a murderous hermit. Ellie is our narrator, and she tells the story of the camping trip, a fun, relaxed time – until hundreds of airplanes fly overhead and disturb the peace. Ellie and her friends convince themselves that the airplanes must somehow be related to Commemoration Day, the national holiday that their families were all celebrating while they were gone. Someone does make a joke about World War III possibly happening while they were oblivious in the wilderness, but no one takes it seriously.

When they return from the bush, though, they find their houses deserted, their pets dead, no power, no telephones. They then realize that the joke was all too true. As they adjust to their new reality, the group must decide what to do: will they stay in the bush, returning to town only to stock up on supplies – or will they fight?

Marsden is especially adept at writing characters. The seven teenagers all have unique personalities, and the combination of personalities make for interesting chemistry – both romantic and otherwise. We see each of the people through Ellie’s eyes – and she does a wonderful job of describing pre-war versus post-war personalities. Each person undergoes a huge transformation – and each one has to decide for themselves what their boundaries are. When is theft okay? How far can you go to defend yourself, your family, your country? At what point in a war do you lose part of yourself? I became fascinated by Ellie’s thought processes, as she struggles to define what her role is in this new world. I would get lost in the story of the war and the heavy issues, and then be suddenly reminded – by a budding romance, for instance – that these characters are only teenagers.

I am very much looking forward to the rest of the books in this series. I only wish my library had them all on audio.

Sidenote: I have discovered this year that I love dystopian fiction. I don’t know why – it’s not the most cheerful of genres. There’s something about exploring our possible futures that I find fascinating. Uglies, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Gone – I have discovered some wonderful YA novels in this genre, and they are the kind of books that grip you from the start and don’t let go until you finish.

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30 Responses to Audiobook Review: Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

  1. Belle
    Twitter: msbookish
    says:

    There are so many great YA dystopian novels out there, I’m starting to wish I enjoyed this type of book more. But I find it too gloomy, usually, so they’re not my favorite reads. I’ve been thinking about trying Hunger Games, though. Tomorrow, When the War Began sounds good, too.
    .-= Belle´s last blog ..Reading Temptations =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Belle – you should definitely give Hunger Games a try – it’s not too gloomy, in my opinion.

  2. Your making me wish I had an iPod again. 🙂 I haven’t really read much in the way of dystopian fiction, but I do hope to give it more of a try one of these days.
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..TGIF: Wishlists & a Nearly Endless List of Questions for My Dear Readers =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Wendy – I love my MP3 player – it’s not an IPod, just a cheap Sony, but I love it!

  3. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    I am with you on dystopian fiction…eerie but compelling! I love it when you recommend YA and audio, which means that there is a good chance I can listen to it with my kids!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Loyalty =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sandy – keep in mind that this one does have a bit more romance in it – some heavy making out. Might want to wait a bit.

  4. hopeinbrazil says:

    Fascinating review!
    .-= hopeinbrazil´s last blog ..Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford =-.

  5. Thanks for the review- I hadn’t heard of this one! Also, great idea about ‘reading’ at the gym. I would probably work out alot more if I listened to books.
    .-= Amanda (A Bookshelf Monstrosity)´s last blog ..My First Blog Award =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Amanda – listening to audiobooks on my MP3 player is what keeps me going and keeps me pedaling that bike once I’m there!

  6. Michelle says:

    I too have found a love of dystopian as well! Hunger Games got me started, it was just such an amazingly written and plotted story I couldn’t stop reading it and now other dystopian books. I’ve read this book as well and still have to write a review for it I’m trying to get through my backlog to get it posted!

    Glad you enjoyed it 🙂
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Are You Going? =-.

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  8. Ladytink_534 says:

    Oh yeah you’ve convinced me! Can you imagine something like that actually happening? I just ordered my copy from the library.
    .-= Ladytink_534´s last blog ..Winged Wonder Plummets =-.

  9. Debbie
    Twitter: debworldofbooks
    says:

    I heard about this one on Twitter and want to check it out. I’ve also been enjoying a lot of dystopian books lately. Have you read Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer? It was really good!
    .-= Debbie´s last blog ..In My Mailbox October 10 =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Debbie – I haven’t read Life as We Knew It yet, but it’s definitely on my list.

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  11. Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads
    says:

    I adore this series. I just finished book 4 (review sometime in the next 10 days). The audios are totally amazing.
    .-= Beth F´s last blog ..Reading Attitudes: Challenge or Fun? =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Beth – I agree! I wish my library had the rest of the series on audio, but I’ll have to read it instead.

  12. Ronnica
    Twitter: RonnicaZ
    says:

    I read this several times as a teenager, so was a bit leary picking it up again last week. You never know how your tastes change. Nope, still like it…there’s just something about how he paints Ellie’s thoughts that’s so incredibly realistic. Crazy that a grown man can get inside a teenage girl’s head like that, huh?
    .-= Ronnica´s last blog ..Me and My Gray Hairs =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Ronnica – i agree, it is amazing when a male author can so realistically write a female main character.

  13. S. Krishna
    Twitter: skrishna
    says:

    I’m starting to realize I like dystopian YA as well! This sounds like a good one, I’ll have to give it a try.
    .-= S. Krishna´s last blog ..Pendragon’s Banner – Helen Hollick =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Swapna – the cool thing about this one is the whole series is already released – no waiting for sequels!

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  18. Yvonne says:

    This book has to be one of the best young adult fiction books written. Even though it was written quite a few years ago, John Marsden really knows how to engage the reader, and allows us to develop a relationship with each character as if we were there with them in Hell. It was hard to put this down once you started reading it. A great book

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