Review: Sunrise Over Fallujah

Posted on July 21, 2008

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Sunrise Over Fallujah
By Walter Dean Myers
Scholastic Press
April 2008
304 pages

If you really want to understand what went wrong with the war in Iraq, look no further than Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers.

The first three months of the war are viewed through the eyes of Private Robin Perry – aka Birdy – who is part of a Civil Affairs Unit. The men and women in Birdy’s unit are well-trained, yet ill-prepared for what awaits them on the battlefield. In the beginning their mission is to follow the invasion forces, and make contact with the Iraqi people to begin building a democracy. Yet as the weeks progress, their unit keeps getting pushed further into the combat zone and deeper into danger. All too quickly they go from playing soccer to win over Iraqi youths to combat in the streets.

From Marla-the-gutsy-girl-gunner to Jonesy, the blues fanatic philosopher, Birdy is flanked by a colorful and diverse bunch of characters from all walks of life, which is so typical of the military experience. Their story is an important one because it shows what happens when good, brave young people are tasked on an impossible mission with a woefully in adequate understanding of the language and culture of the region, and where the rules of engagement (ROE) change from one day to the next.

While some readers might find the dialogue a bit tame – perhaps even unrealistic – it’s clear Myers chose a style that makes this book palatable for the classroom, and suitable for readers as young as 10 years old.

This book is not an escape into a fantasy world of wizards and dragons, it is a jolt of reality about the war our children have already inherited. Sunrise Over Fallujah is one voice – one perspective on this war. Surely we need other voices and more perspectives. I hope this will be the first of many books for teens about a war that has been waged for a third of their lives.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Peggy Tibbetts

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