08 May 2009

Review: A Killing Frost by John Marsden

Minor spoilers ahead: Because this is the third in the Tomorrow series, minor spoilers for the first two books cannot be avoided. Skip to below the asterisks if you want just my opinion. I posted my review of The Dead of Night earlier this year. Note too that this book was released under two different titles: A Killing Frost and The Third Day, the Frost.

It's been six months since Australia was taken over by an unnamed enemy. A group of teenagers from the area around the small town of Wirrawee escaped capture because they were camping in the outback during the weekend of the initial invasion. The story is told through the eyes of Ellie, who keeps a journal of the group's activities.

By now the kids have become profoundly affected by the events of the war: They've seen death, they've caused death, and they been on their own without a trusted adult for too long. Ellie, however, still remembers every detail of her old life: the good and bad in her parents, schoolwork, farm chores, TV, and e-mail. It's been a couple of months since the gang pulled off their last attempt to thwart the enemy. Although they needed time to recover from the overwhelming consequences of their situation, the inactivity has left the teens with too much time for introspection.

Ellie writes:

These days, I don't know whether I am murderous, suicidal, addicted to panic, or addicted to boredom.

I wonder what happened to the people who were in the world wars, after the fighting was over? . . . Did they press their "Off" buttons on the day that peace was declared? Can anyone do that? I know that I can't do it. (p. 2)

In the dead of winter, they decide to leave their secluded camp to try to get some information about the state of the war and about two friends who were forced to turn themselves over to the enemy for medical care. When they emerge from the bush, they are shocked to see how many colonists have taken over the land and that Australian citizens are being used for slave labor.

After rescuing a friend from a work camp, Ellie and her friends seem to get a second wind, and they begin plotting their next attack on the invaders. This time, they have their eye on the supply ships in Cobbler's Bay. Before the end, Ellie learns the meaning of fear, the preciousness of her own life, and the extent to which people can be driven to save those whom they love.

* * * * *
As I mentioned in my earlier review, the teenagers are complex and believable characters. They each have a distinct personality with individual talents and weaknesses. The skills and knowledge they possess are those that most farm kids would have, such as being able to drive a variety of vehicles and knowing how to use firearms, poisons, and generators. Although the teens rebel against the enemy and engage in guerrilla warfare, they are scared, they cry, they get discouraged, they get wounded, and they make mistakes. There's a bit of good luck but not many miracles.

The transformation of the children from typical modern-day teens to battle-scarred veterans is gradual and convoluted. Except for Ellie, who is telling the story, we cannot even be sure of who will survive. We have no clear idea of what is ultimately going to happen, and the suspense and action hold your attention. Without giving away major plot lines, it is difficult to convey the depth and reality of Marsden's series. It is no wonder that he has sold almost 3 million books in Australia alone.

There are seven books in the Tomorrow series and three more in the Ellie Chronicles, which follow the first series. Thus, although the ending of A Killing Frost is not a cliff hanger, all is not yet resolved.

I listened to this audiobook via digital download from my library. I can't imagine that any other reader could capture Ellie better than Suzi Doughtery. She does an amazing job.

John Marsden has a website and blog.

Print published by Scholastic, 2006
ISBN-13: 9780439829120
Audio published by Bolinda, 2001
Challenges: Support Your Library, Young Adult, 999, Spring Reading, 100+
YTD: 35
Rating: B+


Julie P. 5/8/09, 8:25 AM  

Wow! You are going to convince me to start audio books yet! This one sounds intense!

Anonymous,  5/8/09, 8:41 AM  

This sounds like a series I might like and I'd never heard of it. Thanks for the heads up :)

Sandy Nawrot 5/8/09, 9:18 AM  

I am told that this "alternate history" kind of thing is actually a genre by itself. Who knew? A classmate of mine was recommending some author (can't remember now who it was, but I think the last name sounded Native Am. Indian-ish) that has written dozens of these types of books. I'm not sure I'm there yet!

Beth F 5/8/09, 9:43 AM  

Sandy, the only alternate here is that Australia gets invaded by a foreign country (so far unnamed). Everything else is completely familiar. So maybe this would be a good one to ease on in to!

Margot 5/8/09, 10:55 AM  

I'm intrigued by the plot line of these books. I can see why they are best sellers in Australia. This gives a lot of food for thought.

Nely 5/8/09, 11:30 AM  

These books sound awesome. I'm going to have to check 'em out. Phenomenal review.

♥ Nely

bermudaonion 5/8/09, 1:44 PM  

I really think my son would like this book.

Jeanne 5/8/09, 3:21 PM  

I'll check this one out. I love a series that can resolve some things and leave others open.

Sadako 5/9/09, 5:49 PM  

Indeed...very intense. I, too, am intrigued.

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