Tomorrow, When the War Began- Summary & Analysis

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Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden is a thrilling and thought-provoking novel about seven teenagers who find themselves fighting a guerrilla war against a foreign power that has invaded Australia.

TitleTomorrow, When the War Began
AuthorJohn Marsden
GenreYoung Adult, Science Fiction, Adventure
SettingRural Australian town invaded by an unknown enemy
PlotSeven Australian teenagers who are forced to fight back against a foreign invasion


The characters of “Tomorrow, When the War Began” by John Marsden are:

  1. Ellie Linton ➤ The protagonist of the story, Ellie is a strong and resourceful leader. She’s good at making tough decisions and is the narrator of the series.
  2. Lee ➤ He’s Ellie’s close friend and one of the more sensible members of the group. He has a romantic relationship with Ellie.
  3. Homer Yannos ➤ Homer is the group’s troublemaker and a bit of a wild card. He’s known for his daring and reckless actions.
  4. Fi ➤ Fiona, or Fi, is a caring and compassionate member of the group. She has a close bond with Ellie.
  5. Corrie ➤ She’s Ellie’s best friend and a loyal member of the group. Corrie is often seen as the peacemaker.
  6. Robyn Mathers ➤ Robyn is religious and struggles to come to terms with the violence and chaos of the war.
  7. Kevin Holmes ➤ Kevin is a gentle and kind-hearted guy who becomes a vital part of the group.
  8. Chris Lang ➤ Chris is known for his humor and light-heartedness, which helps ease the tension in the group.
  9. The Colonel ➤ He’s a mysterious and older man who helps the teenagers and provides guidance.


The themes of “Tomorrow, When the War Began” by John Marsden are:

  1. Resilience and Survival ➤ The book shows how a group of teenagers must rely on their resourcefulness and inner strength to survive in a war-torn world.
  2. Coming of Age ➤ The story follows the main characters as they transition from carefree adolescence to taking on adult responsibilities during the war.
  3. Friendship and Loyalty ➤ The book highlights the deep bonds of friendship and loyalty that are tested under extreme circumstances.
  4. War’s Impact ➤ It portrays the devastating effects of war on a peaceful town and its people.
  5. Identity and Change ➤ The characters grapple with questions of identity and purpose as they face the challenges of war and violence.
  6. Nature and the Environment ➤ The Australian wilderness plays a crucial role in the story, emphasizing the relationship between humans and nature.
  7. Resistance and Rebellion ➤ The teenagers become unlikely heroes, resisting and rebelling against the invaders who threaten their way of life.


Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden is a thrilling young adult novel. It tells the story of a group of seven Australian teenagers who go camping only to find their town deserted when they return. Their country has been invaded, and they must rely on their wits and courage to survive in a war-torn world.

The story follows them as they adjust to their new surroundings and emerge as unlikely heroes fighting against the enemy forces. It’s a story about friendship, perseverance, and the challenges of growing up during a war.


In 1993, the young adult book Tomorrow, When the War Began launched John Marsden’s “Tomorrow” series. It describes the invasion and occupation of Australia by a foreign nation. The first-person narrator is teenage girl Ellie Linton, a member of a gang of teenagers who are in their final year of school and are attempting to perform guerilla warfare against the enemy. The action takes place in the present in the made-up town of Wirrawee. Ellie’s journal serves as the format for the text. Ellie is a sheep farmer’s daughter. The youthful characters and their responses to the challenges and dangers that have engulfed their planet give the novel a complexity that prevents it from turning into a simple action story or tale of war. 

Because of Ellie’s love of writing, her story goes beyond a simple timeline of what happened and includes all the feelings, pleasures, and sorrows that she and her companions go through. They are left on their own and believe that the grownups in their environment have abandoned them or even deceived them. As a result, individuals develop an independence urge that causes them to feel confused since their victories in the face of adversity seem to be matched by their losses. However, the young people’s bravery is on display in their deeds, and they demonstrate how persistence can turn even common people into heroes.

In the first chapter of the book, Ellie and her pals Homer, Lee, Kevin, Corrie, Robyn, and Fiona head out on a week-long camping trip. They find a sinkhole in a remote part of the wilderness that the locals refer to as “Hell” and decide to set up camp there. A myth that a hermit spent many years thereafter having killed his wife and son adds a sense of intrigue to the atmosphere as the group descends to the valley. They have some downtime after they get to their location. After a few days, many aircraft fly overhead one night without turning on their lights. They see it, but they don’t consider it to be anything unusual or cause for alarm. 

When they return from their excursion and arrive at Wirrawee, they discover that no one is still living there and that all of the animals—including livestock and pets—are either dead or on the verge of dying. They divided into three parties to investigate the issue since they knew something significant had happened while they were gone. At some point, they conclude that unknown invading troops have taken the town. The residents are being held as prisoners, and the enemy is using the town as a beachhead. An enemy’s beachhead is the portion of the beach that it controls and uses to launch attacks.

When Ellie and her friends are discovered and pursued by the invaders, the youths can flee by creating a homemade explosive out of lawnmower fuel. Ellie and a few of the others discover Robyn and Lee are missing as the situation develops. Homer, Ellie, and Robyn discover them while looking for them. Lee is hiding somewhere near the town’s main street after receiving a gunshot wound to the leg. The enemy’s operations are centered in this region as well. Following a discussion on a course of action, Ellie proposes that they attempt to save Lee. To transfer Lee and safeguard him, they make use of a front-end loader. Some of the troops are killed in the process, but Lee is eventually returned to “Hell” unharmed.

As the group spends more time together, bonds start to emerge and they become closer. Ellie and Lee develop a relationship, while Homer develops feelings for Fiona. Even before the invasion, Kevin and Corrie were dating; their relationship is still going strong.  To gather food and any other items that could be needed, the crew moves on to nearby farms.  Following their return, they establish a base in “Hell” and start strategizing how to wage guerilla war against the adversary. They break into an oil tanker and blow up the bridge leading out of Wirrawee with it. Corrie is shot as their raid continues as she searches for supplies. In exchange for Corrie’s medical care, Kevin gives himself to the invaders and delivers her to the hospital in the town, which is now under their control.

John Marsden discusses survival as a central issue in Tomorrow, When the War Began, but not only in terms of satisfying one’s fundamental necessities. Ellie and her pals instantly understand that they must operate not as individuals but as one united entity to live when they return to discover their town in ruins and comprehend what they are up against. The laws of survival have altered as a result of all that has transpired. There are no longer any social norms. Teenagers now have to determine what is expected of them on their own. In an uncertain future, it is important to consider how society as a whole will survive.


Who are the main characters?

The main characters are Ellie Linton, Homer Yannos, Lee Takkam, Fiona Maxwell, Corrie Mackenzie, Kevin Holmes, and Robyn Mathers.

What is the setting of the book?

The book is set in Australia, during a fictional invasion by a foreign power.

What is the plot of the book?

The plot of the book follows seven Australian teenagers who are forced to fight back against a foreign invasion. They must learn to be resourceful, brave, and willing to do whatever it takes to survive and protect their loved ones.

What is the significance of the title?

he title of the book refers to the day that the teenagers realize that their world has changed forever. They are forced to grow up quickly and take on adult responsibilities in the wake of the invasion.

What happens to the characters at the end of the book?

At the end of the book, the teenagers are still fighting the invaders. They have lost some of their friends and loved ones, but they remain determined to liberate Australia.

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