Invasion by Walter Dean Myers

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Genre: Historical fiction

Invasion is the story of Josiah Wedgewood, a young southern man who participates in the Allied D-Day invasion of France on Omaha Beach as a member of the 29th infantry. The story begins before the invasion and continues as Josiah and his fellow soldiers push through the French countryside toward St. Lo.It is loosely tied to two of Myers’ other novels, Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Fallujah, but it is not necessary to have read them to read Invasion – I haven’t.

It’s clear – especially from reading the author’s note at the end – that Myers attempted to accomplish something ambitious in this novel. He talks in the author’s note about wanting to capture the horror of war, and he interviewed WWII vets to help authentically capture their memories of the invasion and the war. The book does convey a certain sense of the futility, brutality, and sheer terror of war – how can you force yourself to run across a field knowing other men could be hiding in the bushes ahead with their guns trained on you? Why is one man hit and another man spared? How does day after day of these conditions change you as a person?

Overall, however, the book misses the mark. It simply didn’t draw me in and keep me reading. At the beginning, I pulled up charts of army organizational systems and rankings so I could follow the characters and action, but that structure disintegrated as the men were separated, and there were too many characters, and those too shallowly drawn, for me to keep them straight.  The book also did not read at all as it was promoted; the promotional material for the book – synopsis on Amazon, publisher’s website, etc. – bills the book as the story of two men, one black and one white. The black character, Marcus, is purely peripheral. Their friendship is explored only minimally, and there is barely any discussion of the differences in the experiences of black and white soldiers during the war. So much of this book only skims the surface, and the abrupt ending does nothing to flesh out the story. I felt no sense of resolution for Josiah’s story. The more I think about it, the more this book failed to deliver.

This book may be high interest for students interested in history or military history, but otherwise don’t bother. The violence, language and sexual references render it best for high school students.

Teaching resources:

Author’s website: http://www.walterdeanmyers.net/

Publisher’s website: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/book/invasion-0

U.S. Army Operational Unit Diagrams (useful for understanding the different units and which officers command them): http://www.army.mil/info/organization/unitsandcommands/oud/

The Maryland Military Historical Society’s page on the history of the 29th Infantry Division: http://www.marylandmilitaryhistory.org/research.php

The U.S. Army’s D-Day page: http://www.army.mil/d-day/

A National WWII Museum handout on African Americans in WWII: http://www.nationalww2museum.org/assets/pdfs/african-americans-in-world.pdf

A History.com lesson on WWII African American troops: http://www.history.com/images/media/pdf/AfricanAmericanWWII_Study_Guide.pdf

A Q&A with the author at the Kalamazoo Public Library: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DweJ7vUFJLk

Surviving D-Day (documentary): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_dbXyeyMa4

Seattle Public Library Podcast for Teens interview with the author: http://www.spl.org/Audio/Teens/4_21_12_Walter_Dean_Myers.mp3

Sample essay prompts based on past MCAS Exam essay prompts:

1. Often in works of literature, a character earns the respect of his or her friends, family, or community. Select a character from Invasion who earns the respect of his or her friends, family, or community. In a well-developed composition, identify the character; describe how the character earns the respect of his or her friends, family, or community; and explain how the character’s experience is important to the work as a whole.

2. Often in works of literature, a character encounters a situation that requires courage. Select a character from Invasion who encounters a situation that requires courage. In a well-developed composition, identify the character, describe how the character reacts to the situation that requires courage, and explain how the character’s actions are important to the work as a whole.

3. Often in works of literature, characters gain wisdom through experience. Select a character from Invasion who gains wisdom through experience. In a well-developed composition, identify the character, describe how the character gains wisdom through experience, and explain how this wisdom relates to the work as a whole.

This review is based on an eARC provided by the publisher. I was not financially compensated and all opinions are my own. 

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  1. Pingback: 212 Pages Done, 535 Pages Total. Doing Good. | Jack's Blog

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