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:
"Myers earned a Coretta Scott King award for Fallen Angels (1988), about Richie, a young, black soldier who faces confusing missions, enemies indistinguishable from civilians, and a country that resents its so-called liberators. That book dealt with Vietnam, but the same description applies to this moving companion, set in Iraq. Narrated by Richie's nephew, Robin, this novel plunges readers into Operation Iraqi Freedom. The violence encountered by Robin's supposedly low-risk, mixed-gender Civil Affairs team demolishes expectations of a textbook war and leaves the recent enlistee burdened with anxiety, as if every gun had an eye on the end that was looking for him. Such remarks are emblematic of the spare, authentic power of Myers' writing, which reveals both the universal emotions of warfare and its contemporary specifics from embedded reporters to women warriors (one of whom experiences an attempted rape). Unfortunately, readers learn more about the situation than about Robin himself, who tends to be upstaged by his vibrant supporting cast. Another weak point is a melodramatic, heavily foreshadowed tragedy at the book's climax. Even so, this offers a compelling, close-up look at a war that has raged for a large percentage of teens' lives, and together, this novel and Fallen Angels deliver a searing statement about how the lessons of history go unheeded as the fog of war envelops generation after generation. A new paperback edition of Fallen Angels will build interest in both books; recommenders should note that the language and violence in the earlier title are markedly more graphic.--Mattson, Jennifer Copyright 2008 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Here it is at last--the novel that will allow American teens to grapple intelligently and thoughtfully with the war in Iraq. Robin Perry, nephew of the soldier central to Myers's Vietnam novel Fallen Angels, has joined up because, as he fumblingly writes to his uncle on the eve of the invasion in 2003, "I felt like crap after 9-11 and I wanted to do something, to stand up for my country." Massing in Kuwait, assigned to a Civil Affairs unit, he finds that his motives continue to elude him as he assesses his fellow soldiers, all of whom seem tougher, braver, better directed. Even as the author exposes Robin's ambivalent feelings and doubts, he re-creates the climate of the earliest days of the war, when victory seems definable and soldiers credibly talk in March or April of being home by Christmas. Robin serves more as a lens on the war than as a narrator whose voice surprises or compels the reader. His comrades, too, conform to type; rather than individuals, they are representatives of characters familiar to war movies and genre fiction: the soulful musician whose awareness of irony does not stop him from heroism; the medic who defies military protocol in her humanitarianism; the tough-talking gunner--female--who quips her way through danger. In this novel, the conventions are helpful: they ground the reader. For as the Civil Affairs unit moves from a mission of winning "hearts and minds" to having to apologize for the "collateral damage" of having bombed a school and killed children in the "fog of war," the characters realize they are in the middle of many wars, none of which they understand. Readers will get a sense of the complexities of the war, and of the ways the rank-and-file, as represented by Robin, are slowly drawn into covert or morally dubious engagement. The action builds toward a climax that is affecting despite being easily foreseen. At the end, when Robin writes his uncle one last letter, asking, "[A]re there really enough words to make [kids] understand [about war]," the book itself dares readers to lift that question off the page; it is a forceful bid for their hearts and minds. Ages 12-up. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved