Personal Effects

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3.7 (2)
 
3.8 (2)
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Personal Effects
Author(s)
Age Range
14+
Release Date
September 11, 2012
ISBN
0763655279
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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.

Editor reviews

2 reviews

Compelling, Gut-wrenching Debut.
(Updated: October 13, 2012)
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
I knew going in, that this would be a tough book to read but I wasn't prepared for the strong emotions it would evoke. It's well written and 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 an 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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The Horrible Cost of War
Overall rating 
 
3.3
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
3.0
Matt has enough to deal with. His father is very controlling and overbearing, more so since the death of Matt's mother. Matt must do well in school, work a job, control his anger, and most of all, join the military. Since Matt's brother, T.J., has recently died while serving in the military, it's not something Matt is really interested in. He's having a lot of anger management issues, especially when kids in school spout pacificistic rhetoric. His father barely mentions T.J., has taken down pictures, and won't let Matt have his brother's things. When several foot lockers of T.J.'s possessions are delivered to the house, Matt goes through them and finds, among other things, passionate letters from a woman named Celia, along with pictures of a young girl whom Matt believes to be his brother's child. With the support of his childhood friend (who is quickly becoming more of a girlfriend) Shauna, he plans a road trip to meet Celia and try to understand more about his brother's life, despite the fact that he is missing exams and work, and his father doesn't want to go. He ends up learning much more about his brother than he ever expected, and is able to come to terms a little bit more with the way that his family has been falling apart.

Good Points
This was a very powerful book, and excellently written. The scenes where Shauna is flirting with Matt but he is trying not to give in to her because he doesn't want to ruin their friendship are painful to read, but true to life. The dynamics between Matt and his father are also difficult but painful, and T.J.'s secrets are revealed and dealt with in a constructive way, even though this is not easy. I think this may be my nominee for the Young Adult Fiction section of the Cybils Awards this year.


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User reviews

2 reviews

Overall rating 
 
3.8
Plot 
 
3.5  (2)
Characters 
 
3.5  (2)
Writing Style 
 
4.5  (2)
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Personal Effects
(Updated: February 02, 2013)
Overall rating 
 
3.3
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
I would recommend this because of the subject material of the book. I think despite the ending a lot of people could really learn something from reading Personal Effects.

I won a copy from YABookCentral; Thank you :)
Good Points
I really liked the twist towards the end! Once the big surprise came out and was explained I found I love all of the characters even more for it! The book became deep and thought provoking and I still find my mind drifting to it still. I honestly never thought what it would have like for a someone in the army in that position before. This book cand definitally teach you a thing or two. :)
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Exceptional Book
Overall rating 
 
4.3
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
I had been anticipating reading Personal Effects since I first discovered it, so I was very excited to finally read it. It was everything I expected and more! Personal Effects is such a heartfelt and emotional story, and a real tearjerker. I feel as though I should start doing some type of tissue rating system since I have a tendency to turn into a sobbing mess while reading emotional stories. I even had to stop reading several times when I couldn't see through my tears. This really is an amazingly well written story, and has so many parts that felt true to life.

The protagonist, 17 year old Matt, has been having a difficult time since his brother, T.J., died in Iraq. His father is a real hard ass, overbearing and controlling, and does not do emotions. Therefore, Matt has to internalize his anguish and heartbreak and not let his true feelings show through. Matt is always walking a tight line and trying his hardest not to set his father off. Since the story is told from Matt's POV, the reader can really sympathize with what he is going through.

Matt reacts to situations with such real emotions. I could feel his pain and frustration as he slowly and methodically goes through T.J.'s personal effects and attempts to make sense of what he finds. Matt realizes that he must open his mind to new possibilities. The discoveries also make Matt take a look at himself and the life he is actually living, and the life that he really wants for himself. He must make some difficult choices as he processes the loss of his brother.

Matt went through a tremendous change during the book. He learned how to stand up for himself and what he wanted. He was able to make decisions that helped him deal with and move past his grief. And he took charge of his own future. I felt that Matt came out of this a stronger and better person.

I really liked the romance aspect, even though it was mostly one sided. Matt has feelings for his best friend, Shauna, whom I really loved. She is funny and sweet, and is so supportive of Matt. Their scenes together are so hot! I loved when they were together, but I was glad that the romance didn't overshadow the bigger story.

Overall, I thought Personal Effects was an exceptional book, and I really enjoyed reading it. It is a story about loss, grief, discovery, and acceptance. This is a great contemporary, and I can't wait to read more from this author.

ARC provided by Candlewick Press via NetGalley.
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