When Ellie and her friends return from a camping trip in the Australian bush, they find things hideously wrong — their families are gone. Gradually they begin to comprehend that their country has been invaded and everyone in their town has been taken prisoner. As the reality of the situation hits them, they must make a decision — run and hide, give themselves up and be with their families, or fight back. (Synopsis from Goodreads)
rocked me to my very core, making it even more astonishing that he'd fallen off my radar over the last 18 months. So when I saw the Kindle edition of probably his most famous book (is this his most famous book? Any Aussies out there, please feel free to correct me) on offer, all the feels came flooding back. I was surely in for a guaranteed gripping read, wasn't I? Well...
I was a bit disappointed with this one to be honest. It pains me to admit it, but there were times when it became a bit of an effort. How is this possible from such a brilliant wordsmith? And a brilliant wordsmith doing dystopian? Sure, there was plenty of the fantastic trademark prose peppered across the chapters, but I felt so let down by how this story panned out. Choosing to write in a diary format didn't really help with the development of the plot and the characters. We do get to know Ellie really well, and I loved Ellie - so self-assured and confident and comfortable in her own skin - but with such a large cast, most of the others blended into the back ground, especially the girls. We're given scant outlines of their personalities, but shown very little evidence of them in action, especially the best friend Corrie. The boys were slightly better developed, but I never felt a connection or empathy with any of them. Kind of a weakness in a story which uses a strong group dynamic as its base.
Another disadvantage of using Ellie's diary to convey the action was that I was left with no sense of tension or danger. For example, at one point Ellie is writing down how Robyn recounted her escape from the soldiers. A fairly dramatic incident you might imagine - and yet their in no drama whatsoever, because we know Robyn is safe because she is there telling the story! And sometimes, the whole thing felt a bit like I was reading a Bear Grylls-style survival handbook - pages and pages of detailed dialogue describing what they were planning to do, their contingency plans if something went awry, what they did, what they shouldn't do, what they might do but probably don't have time to do.....etc etc. Not exactly snappy.
And then the romance - I just didn't get it. It came out of nowhere and what might have been a fairly promising love triangle (and I'm not usually a fan of love triangles) was dispensed with rather quickly, which left me wondering why he even bothered with it in the first place.
But my main problem was that I just didn't buy it. Any of it. Would they really be so clueless about an impending war? Why would there parents be happy for them to disappear off camping if such a war was looming? And then once the war started, they still didn't have a clue who the invaders were? Really? Perhaps all these questions are answered in the other books in the series. I'm still not a hundred percent sure whether I'll be picking them up to find out.