30 October 2009

Review: Darkness Be My Friend by John Mardsen

Darkness, Be My Friend is the fourth in the Tomorrow series by John Marsden. It's a particularly interesting entry because Marsden originally planned to write a trilogy. This novel, however, does not feel as if it were tacked on as an afterthought. The story flows smoothly and believably.

I reviewed the second and third books in the series on Beth Fish Reads; however, I read the first book before I started blogging. Major spoilers for the series (not this novel) lie ahead (can't be helped). This review assumes you've read the first three books. Those who are new to the series, can read the earlier reviews and/or skip to below the asterisks to read my opinion.

Darkness opens several months after The Killing Frost (book 3) ends. Ellie and her friends have been in New Zealand, recuperating from the war. With the help of therapists, the kids have started to come to terms with their experiences in guerrilla warfare. But they are all having trouble adapting to their new life in a new country.

When the New Zealand armed forces ask Ellie and her friends to be their guides for a planned attack on the Wirrawee air base, the teens feel as if they really had no choice. They are clearly caught between the need to be active (as is often typical in post-traumatic stress syndrome), feeling lucky that they escaped alive first time, and being pressured into helping their country and families.

After they return to Australia, they immediately notice that the enemy has made changes, most them disheartening. But the truly startling thing for Ellie and her friends is that they've lost their edge: They are more frightened now and find themselves second-guessing their instincts.

The raid on Wirrawee goes awry, and by the second third of the book, we are once again immersed in the uncertain world of war and survival.

* * * * * * *

As I said in my earlier reviews, it is very difficult to discuss the power of the Tomorrow series without giving away the story. Marsden's characters are extremely realistic; there are no stereotypes or predictable behavior. Just like real people, the teens and adults are not always strong and selfless; they make errors in judgment, get angry, and pout. You may not love every character, but they always behave in a believable and consistent manner.

The books are dark, intense, and action packed. The series is rated for readers aged twelve and up, but the themes are universal, and adults will find themselves fully engaged in Ellie's world. I have been trying to draw out the series so that it isn't over too quickly, but I may have to treat myself to a mini-marathon late in the year.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Suzi Doughtery. As I've said before, she is perfect as Ellie and brilliantly captures the tension, uncertainty, and fear as well as the few sparks of happiness.

John Marsden
has a website and blog.

Darkness, Be My Friend at Powell's
Darkness, Be My Friend at Amazon
These 3 links lead to affiliate programs; if you buy, you support this blog.

Published by Scholastic, 2006 [originally published 1996]
ISBN-13: 9780439858021
Challenges: YA Dystopian, 100+, 999, Clear Off Shelves
YTD: 78
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)
Rating: B+


Jenn's Bookshelves 10/30/09, 8:32 AM  

As you know, I love this series. Marsden does an outstanding job of capturing the characters and their feelings. I'm starting the last book today, and will truly miss the kids once the series is over.

Sandy Nawrot 10/30/09, 9:11 AM  

I'm off to see if my library has the audios. I may try one out, and see if the kids would enjoy them. They sound right up my alley!

Jen - devourer of books 10/30/09, 11:19 AM  

You and Jenn have been getting me very interested in these, I may have to check them out.

Carrie K. 10/30/09, 1:02 PM  

I skipped your review, because I just finished book two. I'm so tempted to request book three from the library right now - but I have so many ARCs and review copies waiting. On the other hand, I did read book two in only two days... I haven't posted my review yet - I'm saving it for a post-less day during NaNoWriMo.

Kailana 10/30/09, 1:06 PM  

I really hope these books come in for me at the library in a timely manner so I can carry on!

bermudaonion 10/30/09, 2:35 PM  

It sounds like this series has fantastic characters. Of course, I'd want to start at the beginning.

Bart's Bookshelf 10/30/09, 4:51 PM  

Glad to see you're enjoying the series still! :)

Veens 10/30/09, 10:02 PM  

I haven't read this series or heard of it! But this sounds really good!

Michelle 11/2/09, 8:57 AM  

I'm not going to read this review for fear that I'll be spoiled but I spent this weekend reading book two and am now on book three. I'm jazzed to keep getting through them and am still loving the story. It's so powerful and realistic.

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