Coming-of-age story; historical fiction; war fiction


Richie Perry, a young African-American soldier in the Vietnam War

Point of View  

Richie tells the story in the first person, giving us immediate, intimate access to his thoughts and feelings as the action unfolds.


Richie speaks with immediacy and poignancy, baring his innermost fears and thoughts. He filters the action of the novel through the medium of these emotions and ideas.



Setting (time)  

Several months in 1967 and 1968

Setting (place)  



Richie Perry

Major Conflict  

Richie struggles to come to terms with the grim reality of war, which contradicts the myths about war that he believed going into it.

Rising Action  

Richie’s enlistment in the army to escape a bleak future; the misplacement of Richie’s medical file, and his resulting assignment to Vietnam; Richie’s burgeoning friendship with Peewee, Jenkins, and Johnson; the soldiers’ journey to their camp near Chu Lai.


Richie’s success in drafting a truthful letter to his brother that discusses honestly the unromantic and gruesome nature of combat.

Falling Action  

The poorly planned mission on which the squad is sent; Peewee and Richie’s separation from the rest of the squad; Peewee and Richie’s quick thinking to save the lives of Monaco and the rest of the squad; Peewee’s and Richie’s getting wounded in the battle.


The army’s failure to process Richie’s medical file properly hints that Richie will not receive a medical discharge and will have to fight; the army’s bureaucratic mix-up at the airport in Osaka previews the general chaos of war and the ineffectiveness of trying to control that chaos.