Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

Probably the best book about war written specifically for teens, Walter Dean Myers' Fallen Angels follows Perry, a Harlem kid who enlists and is promptly sent into the thick of battle in Vietnam. Crestfallen because his dream of going to college wasn't realized, he fled New York, but -- as he's flown into the middle of a blistering, confusing war zone -- he quickly realizes that he had no idea what he was getting into.

In Vietnam, Perry (who spent the flight over innocently flirting with a nurse) realizes that the war is not petering out like he believed. His first night in camp is a horrifying wake up call. What follows is traumatic and eloquent, a war story that throws all of the problems of American culture -- homophobia, machismo, racism, poverty, class warfare -- into high relief.

One of the saddest, most brilliant, most real YA books that I've ever read.

Bibliotherapeutic value: In order to make this book feel so real, Myers had to include profanity and violence. The book, through its depiction of a unit filled with disparate and sundry characters, underscores the value of every human life. A sympathetic portrait of many different types of people and a clear-eyed look at how status quo American culture dehumanizes its "enemies" as much as war does.

Myers, Walter Dean. Fallen Angels. New York: Scholastic Books, 1988. (First published in 1984.)

ISBN: 0545055768. $6.99.

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