Sunday, October 14, 2012

Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie

Personal EffectsAuthor: E. M. Kokie
Publication: September 11, 2012
By: Candlewick Press
4 Stars!

I really like this cover.

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.

*Warning: DO NOT read the Acknowledgements first.

I knew going in, that this would be a tough book to read but I wasn't prepared for the strong emotions it would invoke.  It's well written, moving, with complex characters that will tug at your heartstrings.

Matt is a guy who is dealing with his grief over the loss of his brother, T.J., and fighting a daily battle just to survive in his own home.  (To say his Dad is "abusive" is putting it lightly.)  Matt's pain and anger comes through loud and clear in his voice and my heart went out to him right from the start. He struggles with how to put one foot in front of the other and when he discovers the truth about T.J., my heart broke right along with his. There's a twist in this story that, like, Matt, I did not see coming but he faces it head-on with courage and strength.

Shauna was another character I enjoyed. I found her selflessness and unconditional love refreshing.  I liked T.J. too even if I didn't agree with all of the choices he made but it was obvious that he had the best intentions where Matt was concerned.

All of these characters made and impression on me in one way or another and I'm glad I read it. I think an Epilogue would've been a nice addition, just to see where Matt (and a few others) were a year or so down the road.

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