Friday, December 20, 2013

Invasion

Though it's December and most Americans are shopping and celebrating the holidays, seeing Walter Dean Myers' new novel, Invasion, sitting on a shelf at my local bookstore, reminded me that many Americans are overseas in uniform, and not doing that.

Invasion is a must read for high school kids.

Like Harry Mazer's novel from an earlier post, Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am, Invasion is an honest story. War is not romantic. War is not an experience that a young person should chose for lack of anything else to do. World War 2 and D-Day was something Americans had to do.

With this novel, we are taken to the front lines at D-Day. The reader travels with  teen soldier Josiah Wedgewood from Virginia as he makes his way through the landing, across Omaha Beach, and on to the objective: to defeat the Germans in a small French town.

As would be expected from Myers, the conflict that Josiah faces is evocatively drawn, the language plain and clear. Josiah daily faces the possibility of death, he witnesses German soldiers insane with fear, he sees acts of terrible cruelty on the part of both armies, as well as bravery against impossible odds. He struggles to understand the poetic phrases spoken by a fellow soldier as he puts into words the chaos all around. The letters he writes and receives from a girl back home reveal Josiah's intense longing for someone to care about him. Readers also see how the segregation of the American army played out.

Josiah tells us at the end:

June sixth changed us all. It made us into something else, something that could kill in the constant anxiety of battle. We were able to reach deep into ourselves and find the beasts within and bring them out so that we could survive. How could we put words to that feeling, or that beast? How could we tell anybody about how hard it was to put the beast back inside our hearts, and bodies, and souls, once we knew it lived there? 

Invasion would be a great opener to a discussion of what war does to human beings, the meaning of post-traumatic stress, and much else, including racism in the military during World War 2.


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