Since this is the fourth book of the series, this review may have some spoilers in it. If you don’t want to ruin the book and want to read it for yourself, I recommend not reading past this paragraph. If you’ve stumbled upon this review looking for something about the series, go check out the review for the first book Tomorrow, When the War Began.
This book starts with Ellie and co in New Zealand. Unlike the other books, where not a lot of time has passed since the ending of the previous story, this takes place about five months after. The first words, ‘I didn’t want to go back’, eludes to what is about to happen. This war isn’t over. Not for Ellie or her friends. I mean, it shouldn’t be surprising, we’re only four books in with three more to go!
Ultimately, I like this book. It’s not as action-packed as the previous instalments, but it provides an insight into the damaging psychological effects that war or any traumatic experience can have on anyone. Each character is extremely different with their backgrounds and situations, so I enjoyed learning more about how they coped after they left and how they continued to cope going back. But, if you’re someone who’s really into action-packed scenes with explosions and guns and the pew pew pews, then this instalment might be a bit a drag for you.
The fourth instalment in John Marsden’s Tomorrow series is really all about the impact the war has had on these teenagers and that not everything happens as planned. They’ve had their time to recover in New Zealand. They’ve been talking to psychologists, school kids, and the media about the war and their efforts. They’ve been well-fed and bathed. Hell seems like a distant memory… until five months of ‘holidays’ ends with a proposition to go back… which is where we jump in.
As with any series where there has been a time-lapse between books, there’s a bit of a rewind. We learn about most of the things that Ellie and co have been up to. We also learn a bit about how they are coping with the psychological effects from the war. Right from the beginning, the reader can deduce what this story is really about: how we cope when and after we suffer.
From the previous books, there’s been an emphasis about how far we can push ourselves when we need to survive. But, as I’m sure you can imagine, we can only push ourselves for so long. Mix that with the war and it won’t be long till the damaging and severe psychological trauma starts kicking in. So, when the group are asked to go back and help with some guerrilla work, Ellie finds herself apprehensive (or, more appropriately, angry) at the idea… and really, can you blame her?
It is a one-night-stand (and a rather ghastly one at that) that cements her decision to leave. I’ll warn you now, this ‘casual’ one-night-stand is a little on the rapey side of the fence, so please be aware of this if you’re sensitive to those themes.
So, their holiday is cut short, and before we know it we’re back on home soil in Australia. It is evident the group are a little out of practice, and we start to really see the cracks in their mental stability when Ellie starts screaming at the top of her lungs when she is trying to hide from a soldier. This occurs after her and Lee are selected to be a part of the main group of the guerrilla attack on the airfield. After her outburst, she is escorted away in a hurry to go back to Hell so that she doesn’t put the group in danger, and Ellie is left feeling like an absolute failure.
This is the beginning of many ‘failed’ attempts in this book, and really sets us up for a journey of ups and downs with this group. The guerrillas and Lee disappear, without even making a scratch on the airfield as planned. They try and spike their airplanes fuel with sugar, but fail. They keep making attempts to impact in the war, but their physical and mental capabilities are not like they were a few months prior. It becomes a battle of the mind, which runs parallel with the battle on the field.
But, even though there are not as many intense, action-packed scenes in this book, we are still hit in the face with the death of not one but a few characters. In the last couple of books, we’ve experienced the deaths of Chris and Robyn. And, when Lee comes back after losing the missing group of guerrillas, he brings back the bad news of not only his parent’s deaths but the passing of Corrie.
All in all, this is a book that emphasises just how important our psychological health is and how easily it is damaged by traumatic experiences. This book goes back and forth a lot, with Ellie thinking back to days before the war, which gives the town of Wirrawee its own personality. It makes us feel like Wirrawee is our home, evoking feelings of loss as we begin to realise the impact this war has had on the town and its people.
Darkness, Be My Friend may seem like a bore to you since it does not bring the same intensity with action, but it does bring an emotional intensity. Even the title itself could be taken to literally mean hiding in the shadows. But, when you really start to notice how hard it is for this group to cope with the war, the ‘darkness’ is within themselves. For them to cope with it and to make it through the war alive, they need to accept it like a friend.
Have you enjoyed the series so far? What did you think of this instalment? Let me know on social media or in the comments below!
This is a new style of review that I want to start using in all of my future content. It’s a work in progress, but it’s all about mixing my personal thoughts and the events in the books to become one big review. I want to emphasise the bits I think are powerful in these stories that will, hopefully, ignite the story within you.
So, let me know what you think! All suggestions and feedback are welcome. And, don’t forget that if there’s any books you want me to read and review, let me know and I will get onto it as fast as I can!
Charlotte is a reading and writing lover who has completed a creative writing intensive course at the University of Oxford and is a current university student studying a double degree in journalism and creative writing. If you are curious to learn more, check out the 'About' page.