Friday, September 20, 2013

Book Review: Invasion, by Walter Dean Myers (Scholastic, 2013)

Release date:  September 24, 2013

Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Award-winning author Walter Dean Myers returns to historical fiction in this riveting new war novel about the D-Day invasion.  The novel opens in May, 1944, and Josiah Wedgewood and Marcus Perry are waiting in England for the invasion they know will come, but no one knows when.  Both are from the small town of Bedford Virginia, and both are putting their life on the line.  Josiah serves in the infantry and Marcus is in an all-black transportation unit.  They're practicing over and over for the invasion, but when they leave for real, none of them could imagine the horrors awaiting them on the beach.  Told in the first person by Josiah, this novel does not spare the reader in its descriptions of the horrors of war.  And it's not only the terrors of the beach landing that we learn about, but what happens after--the terror doesn't end for those few who survive the landing.  They still are fighting the Germans tooth and nail for every French village, and more and more of Josiah's comrades become casualties of the war.  Will Josiah and Marcus ever make it back to their loved ones in Virginia?

In an author's note, Myers writes that he conducted extensive interviews with WWII veterans for this novel.  Some of them wept when they described the 1944 invasion of Europe.  War is not an abstraction for this author--his own brother was killed in Vietnam, inspiring his novel Fallen Angels, and his son served as a military chaplain in Iraq during the Gulf War, which serves as the setting for his novel Sunrise over Fallujah.  Myers has woven the novels together by creating the character of Marcus Perry, father and uncle to characters in the other books in this trilogy.  All are freestanding novels, and can be read independently.

I highly recommend this novel for young people interested in history, World War II, and the realities of war.  The novel does contain swearing (consistent with soldiers' language) and violence fitting the theme.  Its brief length (212 pages) and powerful story and writing also make it a good choice for reluctant readers.