Project Tomorrow: When The War Began

Project Tomorrow: When The War BeganTomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
Series: Tomorrow #1
Published by Pan Macmillan
Published on 1993
Genres: Action & Adventure, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: eBook
Source: my home library
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5 Stars

When Ellie and six of her friends return home from a camping trip deep in the bush, they find things hideously wrong -- their families gone, houses empty and abandoned, pets and stock dead. Gradually they begin to comprehend that their country has been invaded and everyone in the town has been taken prisoner. As the horrible reality of the situation becomes evident they have to make a life-and-death decision: to run back into the bush and hide, to give themselves up to be with their families, or to stay and try to fight. This reveting, tautly-drawn novel seems at times to be only a step away from today's headlines.

I originally read this series when I was in school. Nearly 20 years after it was first published there was a film version, which for the record, a lot of people hated.

Except me.

I freaking loved it.

Maybe because I was living overseas at the time and I was pretty excited about an Aussie action film based on one of my favourite childhood books.


Maybe because it was quite a good adaptation that identified and then improved upon the characteristics of the main characters. Maybe it was because there was less romance (and NO angsting over two guys at once!). Maybe it was because Robyn was cast as this tiny ultra-religious girl who ended up being a BAMF. Maybe it was because they changed the ending to include everyone, so the climax was spectacular. Maybe it was because a few of the interesting things that happen in the novel actually happen off-page, and in a film medium it’s easier to portray.

time to go to war

Maybe because it was a really good, faithful adaptation. I wouldn’t say the film was better than the book, but it’s just as good once you take into account that they’re different mediums and they work in different ways. Don’t be a hater.

ellie and lee

There’s so much to work with. The group of teenagers who go camping over the Australia Day long weekend (Commemoration Day, in this version, but it’s definitely Australia Day because it’s just after Christmas and before school goes back so like, yay summer and everything) return home to find their country has been invaded by an unidentified army who wants to partake in all of her natural resources and most importantly, room, and decide to start fighting back using guerrilla tactics mostly based off their bush skills.


And it works, because most of the kids are rural and know how to drive, shoot, hunt, trap, repair, and basically survive in the bush. They’re almost adults, and being kids with big farming responsibilities already help them adjust quickly to no parental supervision.

initiative and independence

And yes, you might find some comparisons, whether fortunate or detrimental, to The Hunger Games because it’s a life-or-death situation and the main characters are teenagers who have to deal with killing other people to survive, but they’re vastly different novels. One’s about killing for entertainment and glory. The other is about actual survival in a war zone.

fi in the water

The descriptions of the Australian bush are really good. I mean, I read this during the summertime so I was keenly aware of how hot it can get and how lovely it can be in the shade or dipping your toes into a creek. But the descriptions are clearly a love letter to a beautiful country and it really helps the setting, which obviously plays a huge part in the story, to come to life.

walkingwalking 2

And the character growth in the novel is phenomenal, because gentle, sheltered Fi finds her courage, and the local teenage delinquent Homer actually shows he’s a natural leader in a crisis and big macho man Kevin displays horrible moments of panic and cowardice. But they’re all still kids, and they’re not trained for war, and they fuck up and learn from their mistakes.

smash a window

I would definitely recommend this to any Young Adult book reader. In fact, I’m having a giveaway right now to celebrate Australia Day and the anniversary of the fictional invasion. Why don’t you enter and take the chance to win this wonderful novel?


About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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