Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Fallen Angels was written in homage to Myers’s younger brother, who died in the Vietnam War. In addition, the journey of the novel’s protagonist parallels Myers’s own early life. The author left school in 1954 to enlist in the Army. He never served in combat but experienced the military life that infuses so much of the book with realism and pertinence. The novel rings frightfully true. Myers’s ability to bring immediacy to his story through first-person narration, intense situations, vivid language, and striking characters helps young adult readers visualize and understand somewhat what the war was like. Additionally, the novel combines the issue of race relations with the larger issue of war. In Vietnam, the percentage of African Americans volunteering for combat relative to their percentage of the overall population was extremely high. In a government push to increase numbers (Project 100,000), over 41 percent of new recruits were African American. By creating intensely realistic and complex characters, Myers avoids stereotypical one-dimensional depictions, thereby contributing to the depth and meaning of his work. This powerful novel is considered a classic of young adult literature.