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When the War Began
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Australian friends return from a camping trip in the outback to discover that enemy forces have invaded the country and imprisoned everyone in town. A gripping tale, told with Marsden's customary incisiveness. Ages 12-up. (Dec.)

Gr 9-12-John Marsden's Australian setting for a seven book series becomes a vivid backdrop for the first title available in audio format (Houghton, 1995). Read by Suzi Dougherty with teen-friendly voicing, the story moves from tense and gripping to philosophical by turns. Ellie, the narrator and resident of the rural ranching district surrounding Wirrawee, tells the story. She and her seven friends return from a camping trip to find their families captive, their homes destroyed or deserted, and their country invaded. Warned in a faxed message to "go bush," they set up a base camp in Hell, a nearly inaccessible valley they have penetrated. Slightly reminiscent of Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien (Macmillan, 1987), which is mentioned in the story, Ellie is presented here as an inventive and admirable heroine. Conducting covert raids for information, supplies, and rescue missions, the friends ultimately progress to an actual guerilla attack on a key bridge along the enemy supply line. All the while, the friends muse on larger questions-the good and evil in people, their own loyalties, and potential romance as they draw together in the face of their experiences. The discussion of sexual feelings, while not at all graphic, makes this more suitable for high school age listeners. Dougherty's narraiton is light-hearted, pensive, or fast-paced depending onthe mood. Her Australian accent offers a convincing touch that adds to the flavor of the story. Everything does not come out happily ever after in this compelling and thought-provoking novel, and listeners will be eager to read or listen to the other titles in the saga.-Jane P. Fenn, Corning-Painted Post West High School, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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