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  Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

Review by: Nick P.
Louisiana, Grade 7

Few of us have experienced the horrors of war, but award-winning author Walter Dean Myers provided such graphic details of the Vietnam War in his book titled, Fallen Angels, that I felt I inside the hooch with his characters. When I closed my eyes and reflected upon the chapters I just read, I could feel the heat of the jungle, smell the sweat pouring from the soldiers on patrol and hear the thundering screams of the soldiers barking out commands during a frenzied fire-fight. The young, naïve recruits confronted by the brutal realities of war , would forever change their outlook on life.
At age seventeen, Myers, the author, dropped out of school and joined the United States military for a four-year tour of duty. His duty ended one year before the start of the Vietnam War, exempting him from the draft. Unfortunately, his younger brother was forced to fight in the Vietnam War. The author often received letters from his brother describing the war in great detail, inspiring him to write this great novel. On May seventh, 1968, Myer’s brother died in battle. In 1988, twenty years after his brother’s passing, Walter Dean Myers wrote this historically fiction book titled, Fallen Angels.
The story begins in 1967when a group of young men from different walks of life are thrust into combat half a world away from home. The main character in the story, Richie Perry, joined the military because his family was poor and unable to send him to college. He viewed serving the military as an honorable and noble responsibility that everyone should do. He had no idea of the difficulty and struggles he would face. On the plane ride over to Vietnam, Richie met Harold Gates, nicknamed “Peewee”, and another recruit named Jenkins. They ended up in the same squadron. On their very first patrol, Jenkins was killed by a landmine. Richie, devastated by his friend’s death, had a hard time controlling his emotions and began to struggle with the brutality of war and the fear that he would be next. He was not prepared for this.
On their second patrol they suffered no injuries but killed one Vietnamese soldier. The leader of the platoon Captain Richard reports to higher authorities they killed three Vietnamese soldiers, in hopes for another promotion. On another patrol, Perry is injured and he sent to protect an area with a different platoon. The leader of that platoon tells Richie to “feed” ammunition into an M60 machine gun. When the leader spots something moving they shout commands to get down and start “sprayin and prayin”, the slang term for randomly shooting in the area of a moving object. As the moving stops, they go in to count the number of enemy casualties. When the platoon entered the heavy jungle they were shocked to realize that they opened fire upon their own men – they shot at “friendlies” or other Americans the entire time. Richie was forever haunted by the soldiers piercing cries for help from the dark jungle.
On a fourth patrol, back with his squad, the inexperienced Lieutenant Gearhart, pops a flare in the middle of a fire fight that exposes their position to the enemy which leads to the death of a solider in the squad. Once they return home, Richie writes a letter to the killed soldier’s family. Another horrendous experience happened when his squad was sent on a mission to capture a small village. As Richie enters a building to search for “tangos” he hears a ‘click.’ He turns around to find the barrel of a Vietnamese soldier pointed at his head ready to fire, but the Vietnamese’s gun jammed. So, the bad guy hits Richie in the head with the butt of his gun.
I loved this book for three main reasons. One, the book offered a historical account of the events surrounding the Vietnam War. Two, the author always found a way to keep me interested in reading the next page or chapter. Third, the struggles of the characters in this book reminds me of another novel titled, The Outsiders. The characters in both stories possess youth and innocence. However, they get caught up in the events of their environment and their narrow view of life seems based only on their surroundings. After something dreadful happens, they realize the flaws in their thinking. This book is a really good read, but it contains profanity and violence. I recommend that your parents review it before you read it.

I liked this book because it made me want to keep flipping the pages to find out what happened.

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