Book Review: Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
Walter Dean Myers has been writing YA, gritty, urban fiction for a long time and he is very, very good at it. He writes boy books for boys with African-American protagonists. I picked up a special anniversary edition of Fallen Angels last week while I was at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver because I’d read Lockdown, his 2010 release, and loved it and the subject matter – the Vietnam War – interested me. I can still remember sitting around a table in the cafeteria in ninth grade talking to my friends about what we’d do if they started the draft again. In 1975 the Vietnam War ended but it seemed like a close call for me and my brother who was a year older. My father served in WWII – step-father and father-in-law in Korea. A great-uncle was one of the first soldiers to liberate a concentration camp. Anyone who saw combat rarely talked about it. Fallen Angels perfectly captures the reason why. Fallen Angels was originally published in 1988 and is a horrific account of the Vietnam War froma 17-year old African-American boy from Harlem’s perspective. Richie Perry’s first person, grunt’s eye view is highly compelling and perfectly describes the horror and chaos of both firefights and the psychological impact of the war on American soldiers.
Before I read this book I thought The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, was the best book I’d read on the Vietnam War but this one tops it. It in no way glorifies war and it’s parallel to today’s wars in Iran and Iraq is frightening. The erosion of the soldier’s nerves as the story builds and they see more and more action, is handled well as is the insight into why we were at war then and what each character wanted out of being there. The action is visceral. The ending is haunting.
This is not an easy read as the violence is realistic and explicit as is the language, but it is an important and cautionary one.
Check out this award winning author’s website and Goodreads for more reviews of his work.
More reviews at Goodreads.
Purchase at Amazon.