Walter Dean Myers
The powerful story of an introspective Harlem youth who is sent to fight in Vietnam. With dreams of college fading, Ritchie Perry (17) enlists, buying time to consider his future. By mistake, he's ordered to Southeast Asia and into a bloody, violent nightmare where he sees his fellows gunned down (sometimes by their own side), women and children mutilated and killed, desperate heroism and equally desperate cowardice; his articulate, dispassionate telling only accentuates his story's horror, Myers masterfully re-creates the combat zone with its "hours of boredom, seconds of terror," its crushing tension and the distortion of values brought on by the relentless proximity of death--Ritchie says, "We were in the middle of it, and it was deeply within us." He survives racist officers, pitched battles, guerrilla raids, and multiple wounds not all of them physical; whether his numbed spirit will eventually thaw is a question the author leaves open. War-story fans will find enough action here, though it isn't glorified; thoughtful readers will be haunted by this tribute to a ravaged generation.