Monday, March 15, 2010

Outside Reading Book Review

Third Quarter Outside Reading Book Review

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers Scholastic Inc. 1998 Genre: Historical Fiction novel

The main character in the story, Richard Perry, is shipped off to Vietnam from his primarily academic life back in Brooklyn. He decided to enlist in the army because he has no money to go to college or to help out his family. The story is about how the men come together and entrust their lives to each other during the war, braving many hardships and injuries. They also have to deal with deaths of friends and comrades. Perry and another character, Harold “Peewee” Gates, become good friends and stick together throughout the story. It is a story of the hardships of war and how they affect each and every one of the men serving there. The conflict is having questions that cannot be truly answered by the men serving there, and they think about killing people who may have just as much in the way of rights as themselves.

“Heartbreaking…. Other authors have gotten the details right, but Myers reaches into the minds of the soldiers….” the book jacket reads. “Readers, including those born after the fall of Saigon… will reel from the human consequences of battle.” –Publishers Weekly, boxed review

In he novel Fallen Angels, the reader gets a firsthand account of the harrowing tale of one company of men struggling to comprehend and survive the war in Nam. It isn’t just a historical account of how the battles took place, but what went on in the minds of the men fighting in the battles. It shows the internal struggles over right and wrong, race and religion, and taking another man’s life.

In this novel, the reader receives a glimpse through the eyes of a man fighting in the war in Vietnam, and in his own internal war over family and college, along with other issues that are important to a young man, like girls and money. This is all diminished though after his friends start dying and he has to struggle to keep himself alive.

“My plans, maybe just my dreams really, had been to go to college, and to write.... All the other guys in the neighborhood thought I was going to college. I wasn’t, and the army was the place I was going to get away from all the questions.”

I enjoyed this story because of the way it followed what I imagine really happened in Nam, it stuck to what is realistic to expect in war, nothing more, nothing less. It also told of the time back at base, not just the time out on missions. The time on missions was actually very slight compared to the time spent at base. It told of the men fighting amongst themselves as well as the enemy. It was very well written.


There are obstacles and forces that you have to overcome every day. It can be anything from a simple “I need to get this homework done” to something ridiculous like overcoming or coping with a disease like cancer. Some people believe that all these obstacles in life make living it bleak and dismal. People like Santiago in The Old Man in the Sea take challenges head on and generally overcome them. The challenges in life can be fun to overcome, or a pain. And honestly it all depends on how you look at them. The old man obviously looks at challenges in an optimistic way; he goes all in, taking the challenges head on and coming out on top most of the time. Some of the challenges presented to the Old Man in The Old Man in the Sea were the size of the marlin he was trying to catch, not having proper equipment, and his old age which prevented him from performing as well as younger fishermen and the fact that he didn’t have Manolin with him to help him bring in the fish.

The size of the marlin is also related to the old man’s age and his lack of proper equipment. But if the marlin had been smaller, it would not have pulled to old man out to sea as far as it did, so the Old Man would not have been so tired out, and might have been able to fend off sharks better. If the boy was there, he would have been able to help the old man pull in the marlin, so he wouldn’t have been so tired and easy to take advantage of. “..Out of sight of land, he was fast to the biggest fish he had ever seen and bigger than he had ever heard of” (63). I think that the size of the marlin would have intimidated most people, but Santiago saw it as a worthy adversary worth he time and effort.

Santiago not having proper equipment ultimately evoked his failure in protecting the fish from the sharks, causing the loss of the fish. If he had possessed more weapons and/or supplies he would have had more ways of fending off the sharks, and more supplies would have provided him with a reserve of energy that could be used to help fight to keep the sharks away from his beautiful marlin. “Now the bad time is coming and I do not even have the harpoon.” (103) Perhaps if Santiago had brought more and better equipment he would have been able to fend off the sharks.

If he had not been as old as he was in the book, I do believe that he would have been able to bring the fish in. And if he had Manolin, the fish would have been fairly easy to catch. The old man’s age was a major factor because he was slower than he used to be and because he didn’t have as much energy. Also, his hand cramped up, which was probably a factor brought on by old age. If these factors were not present, I believe that the old man would have brought in the fish before he was even near the sharks. And also, if Manolin had been there, it would have helped a lot. He would have been able to hold the line for the old man while the old man slept, and they would have been able to take turns so that neither was tired. “But you haven’t got the boy, he thought. You have only yourself and you had better work back to the last line now…” (52)

The old man took these challenges head on, and came out on top of some, and others managed to deafeat him. But if you look at every small defeat like it’s the end of the world, you will never be able to surmount any obstacles. In the end, these were all just obstacles that the old man had to face, obstacles that to you and me may seem much to large to overcome, but the best way to look at things is in an optimistic way, and if you do that, you will likely succeed.