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 Amazon
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Published by Scholastic, 2006 [originally published 1996]
Challenges: YA Dystopian, 100+, 999, Clear Off Shelves
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)