Title: Personal Effects Author: E.M. Kokie Publisher: Candlewick Publication Date: Sept 2012 Classification: YA Novel Challenge: None Summary from Goodreads: After his older brother dies in Iraq, Matt makes a discovery that rocks his beliefs about strength, bravery, and honor in this page-turning debut. Ever since his brother, T.J., was killed in Iraq, Matt feels like he’s been sleepwalking through life — failing classes, getting into fights, and avoiding his dad’s lectures about following in his brother’s footsteps. T.J.’s gone, but Matt can’t shake the feeling that if only he could get his hands on his brother’s stuff from Iraq, he’d be able to make sense of his death. But as Matt searches for answers about T.J.’s death, he faces a shocking revelation about T.J.’s life that suggests he may not have known T.J. as well as he thought. What he learns challenges him to stand up to his father, honor his brother’s memory, and take charge of his own life. With compassion, humor, and a compelling narrative voice, E. M. Kokie explores grief, social mores, and self-discovery in a provocative first novel.
When I started this book I had no clue what I was getting into. I figured I would have a good story on my hands about a teenage guy who was just trying to move forward after his brother’s dead. Well let me tell you just how much more than that I got out of this book… First off I loved Matt! Matt is real, flawed, sweet, broken, grieving, and most importantly he acted like a guy. Since this story is one of the rare YA reads told from the male pov I knew I was going to be really interested but I know how hard it is to pull off the male pov in a mainly female pov genre. I feel like Kokie did everything right when she developed Matt into the character he is in the book. I highly enjoyed watching Matt struggle to show his emotions over the death of his brother and it was interesting to see him make so many mistake along the way. He is scared to take steps towards a relationship with his long time best friend Shauna, even though he is always at a loss of blood to his brain when he speaks with her. He is scared to confront his father for what has really been happening his whole life. Plus he is scared of what he might find when he actually does get a chance to go through his brother T.J.’s stuff. I feel like explaining the next part of the book to you because the middle to end of this book is where everything important happens. This whole section of the book is where Matt truly grows into being his own person and learning the harder parts of life. Plus I will just say I loved Curtis! I can’t really explain what I’m even talking about because if I told you about Curtis or any of the heartbreaking stuff that goes down in this section of the book I would ruin the story for everyone reading it. Just know that this section ripped out a section of my heart and gave only some of it back to me. I feel like I left part of my heart with Curtis and Matt in this section of the book. Overall, this was the emotional read I have been looking for!!! For so many months books have not been impressing me. I literally have thrown books down once finishing them and said “thats all I get!” I’ve been frustrated for so many months that no author was really wowing me with their writing, their characters, the plot, and the heartbreaking story I needed the book to give me. I’m the reader who loves when the author can make me scream at the characters, cheer with them when something goes right, and most importantly, break down and cry over the emotions the characters are dealing with. I felt like Kokie gave me everything all wrapped up in one book. I loved stubborn Matt, always there for him Shauna, Curtis with his compassion and understanding, and T.J. for the hard roads in life he took. I loved every second of this book and trust me folks if there was a rating higher than five hearts on my blog this book would be getting more. So here is to a book that deserves every hard earned heart on my rating scale. Here is to a book that broke my heart, left me crying, and yet pieced me back together with the love of a book that is just beyond words. There are no words for how awesome this story is, you all must just go out and read this unique and heartbreaking book for yourself.