Welcome to Vietnam
Echo Company #1
by Ellen Emerson White (as Zack Emerson)
My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA historical fiction
I read this book about an 18-year-old drafted to fight in the Vietnam War when I was a teenager, which was many years ago. I recently remembered the series and recalled being surprised by how much I liked it, so I tracked it down to read again. It really was far outside of the type of books I read back then and is still quite different from my normal preference today. And just like when I was younger, I really liked this book.
The story opens with the MC, Michael Jennings, newly arrived in Vietnam after basic training in the States. He’s shuttled through various bases until he ends up with the people with whom he’ll be spending most of his time. That’s where the story, and series, really begins, as he meets those who have already been near the DMZ for some time and have developed different ways to cope. Michael earns the nickname “Meat” (as in Fresh Meat), which sticks through the rest of the book. I kinda rolled my eyes, though, because it’s a trope that annoys me a little that this one new guy out of all the new guys they have gotten happens to keep the new-guy nickname.
Early in the book, I wasn’t sure I’d want to continue the series. The narration is often choppy, but it’s purposely so. Now and then the author will write a sentence or paragraph as Michael’s train of thought, including stopping mid-thought to switch to another one, sometimes several times. It feels very real and is how I think and even talk sometimes, but reading it can be a little frustrating. However, by halfway or so, Michael had really grown on me. Though the book is dark (what book about war, particularly this war, isn’t?), it’s also a poignant glimpse at a war that isn’t written about as much, fought by teenagers who didn’t really understand why they were there, and written for teenagers. For those who are wondering, though there is some language in it, it’s not nearly as much as I’d imagine adult books about the same subject would have. I don’t remember being bothered by that when I was a teenager, even though I was never one to use that kind of language myself. I’m not sure how much of the series I read as a teen, but I’m looking forward to continuing it now.
Find out more about Welcome to Vietnam
If you’ve read any of this series, or read any in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!