This is one of those sequels where we felt slightly guilty not having read the first book yet. Fortunately, it easily stands alone, and it wasn't until we read the description of its predecessor, Fallen Angels, that we even saw how they went together. And yes, now we have Fallen Angels on our TBR list - look for a review on a retro Tuesday soon!
Robin "Birdy" Perry, a new army recruit from Harlem, isn't quite sure why he joined the army, but he's sure where he's headed: Iraq. Birdy and the others in the Civilian Affairs Battalion are supposed to help secure and stabilize the country and successfully interact with the Iraqi people. Officially, the code name for their maneuvers is Operation Iraqi Freedom. But the young men and women in the CA unit have a simpler name for it:
In this new novel, Walter Dean Myers looks at contemporary war with the same power and searing insight he brought to the Vietnam War in his classic, FALLEN ANGELS. He creates memorable characters, like the book's narrator, Birdy, a young recruit from Harlem who's questioning why he even enlisted; Marla, a tough-talking, wisecracking gunner; Jonesy, a guitar-playing bluesman who just wants to make it back to Georgia and open a club; and a whole unit of other young men and women, and drops them in Iraq, where they are supposed to help secure and stabilize Iraq and successfully interact with the Iraqi people. The young civil affairs soldiers soon find their definition of "winning" ever more elusive and their good intentions being replaced by terms like "survival" and "despair." Caught in the crossfire, Myers' richly rendered characters are just beginning to understand the meaning of war in this powerful, realistic novel of our times.
This is one of those novels that sucks you into its world, and intrudes on your thoughts throughout the day. The characters are very real, and it is shattering to be reminded of how young they are as they go through some horrible situations and have to make very adult decisions. There are also a very few fun times, some moments of humanity, and very wise perceptions from young men and women who should be attending their college orientations or having pizza with their friends. Highly recommended for anyone ready for mature novels, as is anything else by Myers.