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Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie
Published by Candlewick Press
Pages: 352
Ages: Young Adult
Publication Date: September 11, 2012
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository
Author’s Summary:

Ever since his brother, T.J., was killed in Iraq, seventeen-year-old Matt Foster 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, and the worst part is, there’s nothing left of him to hold on to. Matt can’t shake the feeling that if only he could get his hands on T.J.’s stuff from Iraq, he’d be able to make sense of his death. He wasn’t expecting T.J.’s personal effects to raise even more questions about his life.

Now, even if it means pushing his dad over the edge…

even if it means losing his best friend…

even if it means getting expelled from school…

Matt will do whatever it takes to find out the truth about his brother’s past.

Sometimes, when you think you know someone, you really don’t. For Matt Foster that someone was his big brother T.J., who also happened to be the one family member he had left he knew he could feel at ease with. But after his brother’s sudden death while on military duty in Iraq Matt’s world changes forever. His father forbids Matt from viewing T.J.’s personal effects, but when he can no longer resist the urge to connect with the brother he’s now lost he risks everything to discover something he never expected. Within the few things T.J. left behind are aspects of his life that send Matt on a journey that has him questioning everything about the man he knew and the life he wants to live for himself.

Again, I’m blown away by a topic I wouldn’t have ever sought out on my own. Books centered around the topic of war are ones I’ve long known are more than needed, but have also felt a trepidation in approaching them. As I believe most everyone else is, I’m not particularly fond of war and don’t generally find books on the topic enjoyable. I’m beginning to believe that my feelings on books about this topic isn’t valid. Over the last year I’ve now read two books that have absolutely blown me away, more so than most any others that I’ve read regardless of the genre. The first being Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington and now Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie.

Matt’s story is one that teens may not have experienced personally, but in this time of war they could have definitely had a friend or acquaintance that has experienced it. What’s more important is that his story is one that readers of all ages will be able to glean an appreciation for and perhaps, like myself, connect with on an entirely different level than simply being at odds with an event happening beyond their control. Within the beginning pages of Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie you’ll find not only a teen struggling to survive in a home with an abusive and domineering parent, but also a teen struggling to come to terms with the death of a cherished brother. But beyond those initial pages you quickly learn that there’s more to Matt and T.J.’s story than simply a strong brother bond broken by the effects of war. Secrets, revelations, disillusionment, reconciliation and hope all can be found. Through Matt’s discoveries he not only finds the peace he hoped for, but a new family and most importantly a determination to become a man who can withstand the fire of life and his father.

To be completely honest, there’s so much more to Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie than I’m sharing here, but I don’t want to give away too much and ruin the journey of a lifetime. Matt, along with his best friend Shauna and each of the additional characters along the way quickly became people I cared for deeply. In the first few chapters I couldn’t help but want to help Matt through his struggles with his father, much the way his friend Shauna did, but as the chapters continued the more I felt compelled to discover the truths behind his brother T.J.’s life. Was his brother married, did he have a child and was it possible he lead a completely separate life from the one he lived with Matt? So many questions and so many revelations are to be found within the pages of Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie. This is a story that will not only bring comfort and hope to many, but compassion and courage for those in need of it. By far a favorite read of mine this year, Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie is a book I’d recommend picking up as soon as you possibly can!

The1stdaughter Recommends: Ages 13 and up. Revelation in a time of war, and it’s subsequent effects. This is a story readers will not only connect with, but learn from and love. A favorite read!

Pre-Order Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository | Goodreads

Thank you so much to the publisher, Candlewick Press, for providing a copy of this book for review! Connect with them on Twitter, Google+ and on Facebook!
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6 Responses to Book Review: Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie

  1. Gina says:

    Wow…it has to be hard losing someone and then discovering all you didn’t actually know about them….especially a sibling! Had a similiar experience with a title I wouldn’t have normally picked up but enjoyed the excerpt of today. Perhaps it’s a virtual full moon for book readers or something. ^_^ Really enjoyed the review Danielle….sounds like this one will resonate with many readers on a lot of levels. Thanks for sharing!

    • I love that! It’s so fun to take chances and have them work out! I can’t wait to hear more about your book. 🙂
      And thank you! This was a tricky review to write without giving away too much, but such a good read.

  2. PragmaticMom says:

    I would not normally read books about war either — i hate violence — but this one sounds good.

  3. Jen says:

    I have this one from Candlewick! I adore Candlewick and am amazed by the great authors they publish. I am now even more excited to read this one! Thanks for sharing!

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