Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie

With everything going on in the middle east and the loss of our ambassador and ex-navy seals, I found this book to be fitting.  Please keep your thoughts and prayers on the families who have lost loved ones or are seeing them being deployed to help protect the Americans still living in those countries.  This book totally caught me by surprise.  I knew what it was about and I knew it would probably deal with a few tough situations, but this book had so many moments where you didn’t know how things could ever be set right.

Title: Personal Effects

Author: E.M. Kokie

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Summary (by Goodreads):

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.

First Sentences:

Of all the lame shit on Pinscher’s backpack, his “War is Not the Answer” sticker pisses me off the most — even more than his “Practice Nonviolence” button, which makes me want to practice some violence on his face.

It’s not enough that I have to listen to him run his mouth all the time.  But to have to see all his slogans and crap on his backpack, watch him strut around and show off, laughing like it’s all a big joke — it’s almost too much to take.  Espectially on Monday mornings.  Especially on a Monday morning after an even more shitastic than usual weekend.

My take:

Disclaimers and such: I received this book from DAC ARC Tours!  Thank you for letting me read and review this ARC and thank you to Candlewick Press as well!  So although, I received this book for free in exchange for a review, all thoughts are my own.  This book was published September 11th!

I want to preface that this book does contain profanity, a fair amount. As you probably saw from the first few sentences.  Our main character is also a boy and is dealing with the rush of hormones, so he does deal with the temptation that all boys deal with at that age.

The other thing our boy, Matt, is dealing with…is a whirlwind of anger.  Anger at his physically abusive father, who swears his punches are to help him “man up”.  Anger at his mother for leaving them when he was only 4 or 5 years old.  Anger at his brother for dying while serving in the Army overseas.  Anger at bullies at school who wear shirts/pins that try to undermine the war and make it seem like Matt’s brother, T.J., died for nothing.  Everything soon comes to a head and Matt finds himself “seeing red” with consequences.

The only saving grace to Matt is his best friend, Shauna, who has the courage to stick with him through everything he deals with and is there to listen, to provide a shoulder, or just a distraction from the life he’s learned to deal with.

Matt feels the only way to deal with the loss of his brother and abusive father is to find the personal effects of T.J. and go through them.  Everything that they got back before the funeral has been hidden by his father and Matt cannot seem to find them, no matter how hard he looks.  He strikes a break one day when 3 lockers of personal effects come in from the Army filled with everything Matt owned and had with him.

After his dad leaves for work one day, Matt goes through each locker looking through each item.  Uniforms, t-shirts, iPods, pictures, and letters.  Lots of letters.  People Matt has never heard of…along with one person in particular who has written Matt over and over.  Who were these people?  Who is this “C”?  Could T.J. have had a relationship and not told Matt?  Why would Matt show up for a week at home, tell him he was deploying to go back to the middle east, but actually spend months with these people before really going back?

I liked this book.  I read through the bulk of it one night and finished it the next morning.  It was such a “real” feeling book.  I could see this unfortunately happening to someone like Matt and it made me want to sit up with him to find out what was really going on and who his brother really was.

Myst~