Young Adult Books: Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

The Story Is a New Perspective on the Vietnam War

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Since its publication in 1988, Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers continues to be a book both beloved and banned in school libraries across the country. A realistic novel about the Vietnam War, the day to day struggles of young soldiers and a soldier's view about Vietnam, this book is bound to be offensive to some and embraced by others. Read this review to learn more details about this high-profile book by an established and award winning author.

Fallen Angels: The Story

It’s 1967 and American boys are enlisting to fight in Vietnam. Young Richie Perry just graduated from high school, but he feels lost and unsure about what to do with his life. Thinking the military will keep him out of trouble, he enlists. Richie and his group of soldiers are deployed immediately to the jungles of Vietnam. They believe the war will be over very soon and don’t plan to see much action; however, they are dropped down in the middle of a war zone and discover the war is nowhere near being finished.

Richie discovers the horrors of war: landmines, the enemy lurking in spider holes and murky swamps, the accidental shooting of soldiers in your own platoon, burned out villages full of old people and toddlers and the children who are strapped with bombs and sent amongst the American soldiers.

What began as an exciting adventure for Richie is turning into a nightmare.

Fear and death are tangible in Vietnam and soon Richie begins to question why he is fighting.  After surviving two encounters with death, Richie is honorably discharged from the service. Disillusioned about the glory of war, Richie returns home with a renewed desire to live and an appreciation for the family he left behind.

About Walter Dean Myers

Author Walter Dean Myers is a war veteran who first enlisted in the military when he was 17. Like the main character, Richie, he saw the military as a way to get out of his neighborhood and away from trouble. For three years, Myers stayed in the military and recalls his time served as “numbing.”

In 2008 Myers wrote a companion novel to Fallen Angels called Sunrise Over Fallujah. Robin Perry, the nephew of Richie, decides to enlist and fight the war in Iraq.

Awards and Challenges

Fallen Angels won the prestigious American Library Association’s 1989 Corretta Scott King Award, but it also ranks 11 on its most challenged and banned book list between the years 2000 and 2009.

Depicting the reality of war, Walter Dean Myers, who is a veteran himself, is faithful to the way soldiers talk and act. The newly enlisted soldiers are depicted as boastful, idealistic and fearless. After the first exchange of fire with the enemy, the illusion is shattered and the reality of death and dying changes these young boys into tired old men.

The details of combat can be as gruesome as the description of a soldier’s final breathing moments. Due to the graphic nature of the language and fighting, Fallen Angels has been challenged by many groups.