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Richie's Picks: SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH by  Walter Dean Myers, Scholastic, May 
2008, ISBN: 0439916240

"Armchair warriors often fail
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales"
-- Don Henley, "The End of the Innocence"

"I wasn't exactly scared.  My mouth was dry, the way it  felt before a big 
game or an important test in high school.  But I was  going to be doing 
something I had never done before.  I was going to be in  a war."
Having previously written the definitive novel  for adolescents on what it 
was like to be a young American in the middle of  the Vietnam War, Walter Dean 
Myers has now written what will be the  definitive novel for adolescents on 
what it is like to be a young  American in the middle of the current Iraq War.
Having graduated high school In the wake of 9-11, Harlem  teenager Robin 
Perry has decided to "stand up for [his] country" by  enlisting.  Thus, he finds 
himself in Kuwait, in a Civil Affairs unit,  and he's arrived just in time for 
the beginning of the Iraq  War
" 'Okay, rule six in the Rules of Engagement.  Expect  "Happy Shooting" from 
the local populace.  This shooting is not hostile and  should not be responded 
to as such.
" 'So if some guy's smiling and shooting in the air,' Jonesy  said, 'it's 
okay.  But then he lowers it a little bit and he's still  smiling while he's 
lighting your ass up, you can shoot back?'
" It depends,' Marla said.  'How big is his smile?'  "
For those readers already familiar with Myers' book set in  Vietnam, FALLEN 
( ,  the first 
obvious  difference between Twentieth century war in  Vietnam and 
Twenty-first century war in Iraq is that, now, a significant  portion of the 
soldiers with guns are female.  Another major  difference between FALLEN ANGELS 
and SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH is that Robin's being  part of a Civil Affairs unit 
-- that is simultaneously supposed to be winning  the hearts and minds of the 
Iraqis while trying to survive the  random attacks and setups -- brings quite 
vividly into  the forefront of this story the absurdity and stupidity of the 
game  plan that Bush and his subordinates "on the ground" have spent hundreds of 
 billions of dollars trying to implement politically and militarily in  Iraq. 

"In between the bombing coverage and the shots of ground  targets being 
bracketed and then destroyed there were images of cheering  Iraqis.
" 'They know why we're here,' Sergeant Harris said.   'They probably don't 
know what it means to be really free, but they can sense  it,  You know what I 
" 'Then again,' Coles said, 'if they weren't cheering, would  they be on 
television?' "
Many readers will not necessarily recognize all of the  absurdity and dark 
humor here that sometimes made me recall the TV show  MASH (particularly the 
running jokes about the current rules of  engagement).  Most readers will simply 
be sucked in by the  high-action, straight-ahead war story of a dozen young 
American  characters who, at any moment, may suddenly cease to exist or have 
their  best friend or some random group of children on a street suddenly cease to 
"I felt pressed by a huge weight, like every bad minute you  had ever had in 
your life had come back and was inside your chest and just  sitting there.  It 
was like having a huge vulture eat at your stomach and  being too tired to do 
anything about it.  I couldn't stop crying as we made  our way back through 
the streets of Baghdad to the Green Zone.
" 'Stay alert!' Coles said.
" 'No.'  I heard myself say the word.  I wasn't sure  if it was loud enough 
for anyone else to hear.  I didn't want to be alert  anymore.  I didn't want to 
be a good soldier.  I just wanted to  shut down this whole damn war."
There actually is a plot connection between SUNRISE OVER  FALLUJAH and FALLEN 
ANGELS.  Robin Perry periodically writes letters home  to his Uncle Richie, 
who is Richie Perry, the main character in FALLEN  ANGELS.
It so deeply sucks that Walter Dean Myers needed to  write this book.  But it 
sure as heck needed writing and Walter has written  one hell of a story about 
the war that has cost America so dearly, and  forever, in terms of precious 
resources, precious young people, prestige,  and moral authority in the world 
Richie  Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks

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