Monday, June 13, 2011

Male Monday: Sunrise Over Fallujah

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers 2008

Rating: 2.5/5

IQ "From a distance, say the eight feet between eyes and television screen, or perhaps at the silent impact of a long-range missile hitting a newly framed target, combat seemed so simple. There was good and there was bad and the clear distances between the two held their own comforts. But as those distances narrowed, as they came within the range of smell and the feeling of warmth as a shell hit a target or the gentle shaking of the ground beneath you that stirred the constant fear within, the clarity disappeared." Birdy pg. 117

Robin "Birdy" Perry is the nephew of Richie Perry (the hero of another Myers novel, Fallen Angels) and he writes to his Uncle Richie from time-to-time as he tries to work out the complexities of war. His uncle will understand he reasons because he served in Vietnam. Birdy's father did not want him to join the Army and has not contacted him, his mother worries daily about his safety in Iraq. Birdy is part of the Civilian Affairs Battalion and his job along with that of his fellow soldiers is to help stabilize and rebuild Iraq and gain the trust of the Iraqi people. Birdy has no idea why he joined the army, but he does know that war is a lot harder and more complicated than it looks especially the Iraq war in 2003.

There is little camaraderie in this novel. Birdy talks about the members of his battalion but I never got the impression that he was that chummy with anyone, except Jonesy. Jonesy was a well-developed character but everyone else mentioned (Captain Miller, Major Sessions, Ahmed, Marla) remained one dimensional. I wanted more interaction between characters and to get a grasp for their personalities. They all remained very closed-off and I don't think everyone in the army is tight-lipped, there has to be more than one fun-loving Blues man like Jonesy in a battalion. It was also really hard keeping everyone's rank straight but that's not the author's fault, it's my own slow brain. The story did seem a bit predictable to me concerning the death of a character, obviously a character is going to die and I thought who it was going to be was clear. I also didn't like the one-sided letters. Birdy told us what his mom said in emails but we only read his letters. I think it would have been interesting to read his uncle's responses to his letters, especially as a war veteran. Furthermore I wanted to know more about his father who was against Birdy entering the army. This is odd because it's a novel about war but I found it dull at parts which was unfortunate.

The story is exciting though even when no action is occurring. It's exciting and saddening to read Birdy's thoughts on war, exciting because he never really THOUGHT about what being in a war meant so it's nice to see him try and sort out his many different feelings but it's sad because it's WAR. Birdy asks good questions "When I was a kid, maybe eight or nine I wondered why God mad the insides of people. Why not just make solid people that could do the same things we did instead of all the little parts, veins, arteries, hearts and things that could go so wrong. Why didn't God just keep it simple?" (pg. 117), ones that I don't believe answers exist. The author does an excellent job of explaining what was going on in the early, tumultuous days of the Iraq War through the ideas of CA soldiers (well I think it's accurate but I wasn't there). This is vital for teen readers because most of us are too young to understand and remember the beginning of the United States' invasion of Iraq.

Sunrise Over Fallujah offers look at a war that has only recently ended (and some may argue is still going on) in a thoughtful, intriguing manner. The author remains satisfyingly neutral, simply reporting the facts, representing various perspectives through the group of soldiers we (briefly) meet. The only message the author has is that soldiers are courageous and deserve the utmost respect which no one would argue against. I also appreciated that the author shows how quick the enemy can change, it's not always obvious who/what is the enemy as much as the two sides going to war want to make it seem clear-cut. The story didn't always hold my interest, especially at the beginning and the ending wasn't that great either but the middle kept a steady pace that held my attention. I would have liked (well I don't think I could like a book about war) to better understand the backgrounds and motives of the characters, even the main character was a mystery which isn't interesting. Overall I just had a meh reaction to this book and it's hard for me to explain why, and for that I apologize.

Disclosure: Purchased