Myers, Walter Dean. Fallen Angels. Scholastic. 1989. 320 p. Grades 8-12. Historical Fiction.
Perry, a recent high school graduate, decides to enlist in the army and is deported to Vietnam. While over there he makes friends and struggles to find a meaning in the war. One of his commanding officers is racist who puts Perry and the other African American soldiers in highly dangerous situations that could have been avoided. Finally, Perry is wounded bad enough to be sent back home to New York.
Review: Myers gives a riveting account of what serving in Vietnam was like. It is raw and harsh to read. Fallen Angels is a harrowing account of not only the daily routine of living in the barracks in Vietnam, but includes the short glimpses of intense action and fear. This book not only shows the life of war, but it demonstrates prejudice that permeated society at that time. After coming back to the war after being injured the first time, Perry’s new commanding officer is a southern man who is racist against the African American soldiers and puts them in more dangerous situations than necessary. This insight into the racial problems adds another level to the novel about the Americans in Vietnam.
In addition to the racial undertones, religion plays a role in the novel. Perry was not particularly religious, but one of the members on his squad is religious. He is constantly praying. It creates an internal problem for Perry, as he struggles to find reasons for why he is and what happens if he dies. Perry comments, “The praying didn’t bother him. It was that Brew was closer to god than him.” The religious tones help create a realistic view of war. It seems natural to when your life is in danger to question what comes after you die and how to accept that you have killed people.
The action parts of novel are difficult to read, the violence that was intrinsically part of Vietnam society during the war was painful to read about. At one point a child carried a bomb and killed American soldiers. This reality made me put the book down and take breaks before I could continue reading. If the reader knows someone who fought in Vietnam, this book might be more difficult to read. It could be much more difficult to reconcile your dad or grandfather with a soldier in those situations. All in all though, I highly recommend this book, especially to male reluctant readers. The language is accessible and the topic is high interest.