Australian YA and kidlit more deserving of screen adaptations than Tomorrow, When The War Began

Tomorrow, When the War Began is getting adapted AGAIN. Despite being a) a terrible series and b) adapted for movie in 2010. There is a lot of superior Australian YA and kidlit more deserving of screen adaptations. Liz and Steph bring their pro-am knowledge to give you an overview.

Ellie Marney’s Every trilogy.

  • The pitch: Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are Melbourne teenagers kicking it crime-fighting style in Coburg.
  • The format: three 90-minute movies, filmed in Melbourne and the UK, airing on the ABC in the Sunday night prestige Aussie drama timeslot.
  • International appeal: Melbourne! London! Rural Australia! Get some sweet UK co-funding going.
  • The American reaction that causes Steph and Liz to text each other in anger/delight: ZOMG TEENAGERS HAVING SEX AND DRINKING AND SMOKING THIS IS SHOCKING.
  • The fandom reaction: several people run search and replaces on their Elementary meta to explain why Rachel Watts is problematic and unfeminist. Everyone else ignores them and has a good time.

Wildlife by Fiona Wood:

  • The pitch: Pretty Little Liars on an Outward Bound course.
  • The format: mini-series on ABC3.
  • International appeal: look, it’s set in the Victorian mountains, there’ll be scenery and some kangaroos and also attractive teens having relationship problems.
  • The American reaction that causes Steph and Liz to text each other in anger/delight: TEENAGERS DRINKING AND HAVING SEX AND ALSO KANGAROOS
  • The fandom reaction: fifteen Tumblr posts about how this show is so important.  Eight gif sets.  No Award runs a series of posts getting mad that no one is excited about it as Liz.

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

  • The pitch: Game of Thrones but suitable for tweens.  (Maybe don’t remind people that Carmody writes even more slowly than George R R Martin.)
  • The format: several 13-episode seasons airing on ABC1.
  • International appeal: …look, it’s not like tweens aren’t already watching Game of Thrones.
  • The American reaction that causes Steph and Liz to text each other in anger/delight:  “The accents are too hard to understand” and “Why isn’t there a dubbed version for us?” (Conclusion actually taken from Goodreads reviews of this series)
  • The fandom reaction: a seething mass of really enthusiastic, terribly patient and well-behaved readers waiting to politely pounce on any deviation from the books.

Teen Power, Inc by Emily Rodda

the ghost of raven hill has so many feelings right now
the ghost of raven hill has so many feelings right now
  • The pitch: Six teens with a part time job agency; mostly they get in trouble, have shenanigans, and solve mysteries.
  • The format: at least one 22-episode season of half hour episodes, airing on ABC3.
  • International appeal: It’s like The Babysitters Club, but more multicultural and hilariously suburban Australian. And with more theft. And more boys.
  • The American reaction: “Isn’t this the Raven Hill Mysteries? And it’s definitely set in America. I don’t understand why it had to be moved to Australia?”
  • The fandom reaction: gifs everywhere. Comparisons to Enid Blyton that make Steph angry.

Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

  • The pitch: A Muslim schoolgirl decides to wear the hijab full time, including to school.
  • The format: one season of 10 x 50 minute episodes. Airs on SBS1.
  • International appeal: Immigration, a not-white Australia, misc religion. Does well in the UK and Malaysia.
  • The American reaction: Terrorism?!
  • The fandom reaction: Cultural appropriation around how best to wear a headscarf followed by lots of corrections from actual Muslimmah; terrible white feminism re: religion.

Laurinda by Alice Pung

  • The pitch: multicultural Mean Girls with a Spice Girls mid-’90s pop soundtrack the creators can actually afford.
  • The format: one season of 6 x 50 minute episodes on SBS1.
  • International appeal: it does well in Asia.
  • The American reaction: Immediately starts planning a localised remake.
  • The fandom reaction: Lots of gifsets of particularly racist moments, bearing tags like “BAM!” and “THERE IT IS!” and “YES THIS!”  No one outside of Australia actually watches it.

Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier

  • The pitch: Underbelly: Razor but with ghosts, and also actually good.
  • The format: feature film.
  • International appeal: actually quite high, given the success of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.  Someone should get on this asap.  Call us, Screen Australia!
  • The American reaction that causes Steph and Liz to text eachother in anger/delight: TEENAGE PROSTITUTES DRINKING ALCOHOL WHAT IS THIS OUTRAGE!  Followed quickly by a wholehearted embracing of the film.  US media commentators wonder out loud if Australians actually watched and liked it, but don’t actually ask anyone or do any research.
  • The fandom reaction: AO3 is flooded with Miss Fisher crossovers.  An improbable amount of m/m slash is written.  Liz makes a lot of Tumblr posts explaining the difference between a speakeasy and a sly-grog shop while Stephanie makes fun of fics that talk about Prohibition.

Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix

  • The pitch: Young boy has to defeat adults who are also mystical and ruining his life and threatening his family.
  • The format: A feature film. Nix would also like to see a card game.
  • International appeal: The Morrow Days embody the seven deadly sins! Direct appeal to Greek and Western mythology!
  • The American reaction: Would we call Sunday prideful? How dare you call Sunday prideful.
  • The fandom reaction: Fandom ships the Morrow Days (a family: Mister Monday, Grim Tuesday, Drowned Wednesday, Sir Thursday, Lady Friday, Superior Saturday and Lord Sunday).

Sabriel/The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix

the sabriel cover steph owns (first ed?!)
the sabriel cover steph owns (first ed?!)
  • The pitch: If Tomorrow can be adapted twice, we can have two different levels of Garth Nix adaptations. Teenage girl is hereditary fighter of the dead; has awesome weapons and marries a prince.
  • The format: A feature film trilogy of Sabriel, Lirael, and Clariel. The trilogy is called Abhorsen. It’s totally animated.
  • International appeal: Talking demon guard cat. The Disreputable Dog. The Sendings. Repeat: animated. Why hasn’t Ghibli got on this yet?
  • The American reaction: “To really appreciate it, you have to read the Japanese manga it was based on.”
  • The fandom reaction: Fandom drawings are all of white people/characters, except when they’re dead/evil. Stephanie despairs.

13552764The Tribe by Ambelin Kwaymullina

  • The pitch: Kids on the run from authority in a dystopia. With ~powers~ and Indigenous characters and connection to the land. Madeleine Madden from Ready for This as Ashala.
  • The format: three seasons of 10 50 minute episodes.
  • International appeal: Dystopia! Kids on the run! Community! Climate Change! ~Exotic~ Australian locales. Builds on Mad Max: Fury Road and The Hunger Games audiences. Yes, perfect.
  • The American reaction: Everyone is suddenly an expert on Indigenous issues.
  • The fandom reaction: Crossovers with The Hunger Games. Lots of lecturing about climate change. Not enough shipping of Indigenous characters. Poor woobie Neville. Stephanie despairs, and wonders if Neville is named after A.O. Neville. Kwaymullina is from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia, after all.

Surface Tension by Meg McKinley

  • The pitch: Australian gothic for tweens.  (Mark Mitchell can play the mayor.  Is that a spoiler?)
  • The format: if ABC3 doesn’t do 90-minute TV movies yet, it should start.
  • International appeal: summertime, and the murder is easy.  Who doesn’t love a mystery?
  • The American reaction: “So you have Christmas in summer?”
  • The fandom reaction: “This is so good, it’s like it’s not really for kids.”  Four people get mad about that; at least one of them is Liz.

Books that aren’t on this list because we haven’t read them yet, even though we’re pretty sure they belong here:

And many more.

10 thoughts on “Australian YA and kidlit more deserving of screen adaptations than Tomorrow, When The War Began

  1. Grooper

    If we have to have more John Marsden adaptions I’d much rather see a show that uses his Teens In Institutions books as a jumping off point. IIRC Checkers, Dear Miffy, Letters from the Inside and So Much to Tell You either take place in same mental health care facility, or refer to that facility at some point. There are some excellent characters and situations in those books (and a few troubling ones, and some that I’d be interested to see modernised) and anthology/ensemble nature of such a show, and the depth and the dearth of representation of it’s subject matter (at least in film and TV), lends itself to embellishment/continuation with new (possibly more relevant to present day teenagers) material, especially once the source material has been exhausted.

    1. That would definitely be a more interesting approach, although So Much To Tell You‘s themes of victim blaming and misogyny in family violence are pretty ugly, and not (imo) worth preserving.

    1. As soon as I persuade the Australian film and television industry that I can be trusted with large sums of cash.

      It’s really amazing they haven’t knocked on my door already.

  2. I’d watch all of these, but you know I’m really here for the Obernewtyn. And yes, I’d be one of those “enthusiastic, terribly patient and well-behaved readers”. Although I did once (inappropriately) tell Ms Carmody that her fans laugh at GRRM fans… (at least the final book is actually going to be the final book this time, AND it has a release date.)

  3. Emma

    *nodding along*

    I’m just hoping Razorhurst keeps the Mojo Juju song from the U:R soundtrack (and then adds more).

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