Why do I like reading military based books so much? I’ve never been a soldier. I’m scared witless of guns. But, I love reading about camaraderie. I love reading about bravery and courage under fire, so to speak. When I first came across Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers, it was at the library in 2009. I was living in a place I call hell. I had initially taken the book out because I liked the cover and I knew a little tiny bit about Fallujah. Unfortunately, I returned the book unread. Flash forward to this year, 2012, and seeing Sunrise Over Fallujah in the Audible sale. For me, audiobooks are an easy way to read free time non-review books. Since 2009, I have become a big fan of Walter Dean Myers, and so coming across Sunrise Over Fallujah again, I absolutely could not pass that up. Y’all, this is what we call A GOOD LIFE CHOICE.
Sunrise Over Fallujah follows Robin Perry, a young soldier in the Civilian Affairs branch of the military. He is sent to Iraq where their mission is to basically stabilize Iraq and help the Iraqis rebuild. The book starts with Robin questioning why he signed up for the military, for war. He is briefed on his company’s mission. They go over friendly fire and the rules of engagement and what not. Then we move into Robin forming bonds with the other members of his company, notably Jonesy who wants to open up a blues club when he gets back from fighting and Marla, a tough as nails blonde soldier. We see the company interact with the Iraqis, we see them look for weapons, then turn around and collect toys for the children. Yet, the book is not immune to tragedy, much like most people involved with war. It’s kind of hard for me to describe the plot, so I’ll just say it’s a bit of a coming of age, but with a soldier.
I said it in my review of ALL THE RIGHT STUFF and I just wanted to reiterate that thus far, Robin is my favorite of all the Walter Dean Myers main characters that I’ve ‘met’. Robin starts off the book with one of my favorite character traits EVER, he is PRICKLY, you guys. Like, he gets pissy because Marla gives him the nickname Birdy. And it sticks, to Robin’s dismay. But then, as we progress and see the day to day life of war and as Robin really gets to bond, he starts to change. He starts to not mind the nickname. And you guys, ‘Birdy’ goes through some serious life changing events, and I am glad to say that with each event, Robin develops as a character. You can’t go through an experience like the ones Robin has and not change, so I respect that Walter Dean Myers didn’t make Birdy perfect and statics.
I’m glad to read a book set during the Iraq war, as usually the ones I tend to read are set during different wars. Sunrise Over Fallujah wasn’t the typical war book where I spent the whole time in fear for the characters. Or the type where every single battle is described in detail. But rather, Sunrise Over Fallujah goes into the ordinary between fighting bits and I liked that, I feel like I don’t know enough about that. Plus, most of the war books I read don’t have female combatants, so that was a nice little change too. I also liked reading about a war that has happened in my lifetime, in a place that people who actually matter to me in real life have been and have fought. Afterwards, while I don’t UNDERSTAND because I have never been there and most likely never will be in the military, I found myself feeling more empathy towards the experiences of the service people I know.
I’ve seen a few reviews on goodreads for Sunrise Over Fallujah that were lukewarm, which set my brain to wondering. I was thinking about the audiobook experience and how it affects my perception of the books I listen to. Would I have felt the book mediocre if I had read the print version? The audiobook version is published by Recorded Books. The narrater is JD Jackson and he really brings Robin to life. I thought he was a wonderful casting choice. Is that what they call it — the choice of narrator? Anyways, I digress. I thought that JD Jackson brought Sunrise Over Fallujah to the next level, where the characters felt real and three dimensional to me, rather than flat as the reviews say. And now I am wondering how much of my impression and feelings are due to the audiobook rather than Myers’ words. That stated, I did really, really enjoy Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers and would recommend that you give the audiobook which is only 7 hours and 27 minutes unabridged a shot, especially if you are looking to diversify your reading.
Disclosure: Purchased with an audible credit, although I also once borrowed this from the library a very long time ago but returned it unread.
Other reviews of Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers:
Bookin’ Las Vegas – “JD Jackson is amazing as the voice of the book.”
Advice From A Caterpillar – “a jolt of reality about the war our children have already inherited”