This is the book I had with me this summer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Summer Institute when Walter Dean Myers spoke. He signed my copy “To Plainfield students, Best Wishes, Walter Dean Myers”. I brought this particular book with me because it was in relatively good shape. Most of my WDM books are somewhat the worse for wear, having been read by dozens of students. But this one I had just ordered in the spring, with a particular student in mind, who was drawn to stories about war. I hadn’t read it myself yet. What an eye-opener!
The story follows 17-year-old Richie who joins the army right out of high school and quickly finds himself in Vietnam. It is a graphic look at the horror of war and an unflinching examination of the lack of preparation these young soldiers had for leaving “the World” and entering brutal chaos.
As always, WDM writes with the strong voice of the main character, a young man searching for his place in an unkind world, whose life is filled alternately with self-doubt and confidence, fear and hope, loneliness and friendship. It’s a story about staying alive and thinking about reasons for wanting to.
I would recommend this for high school students or mature middle-schoolers due to some violent scenes and strong language.