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In an outstanding debut, Kokie tackles the tumultuous aftermath of a soldier's death, as seen through the eyes of a sibling left behind. Ever since 17-year-old Matt Foster's older brother, T.J., died in Iraq, Matt has been enraged-especially with anyone who criticizes the war or his brother's role in it-and he doesn't hesitate to express himself with his fists. Meanwhile, his authoritative and physically intimidating ex-military father seems determined to erase every sign of his deceased son's presence. When Matt gets his hands on some of T.J.'s possessions, he discovers that T.J. had a life he never knew about, complete with girlfriend and potential child. Risking his father's wrath, Matt borrows a car and takes an impromptu road trip, hoping to reconnect with his brother's memory. Writing with grace and subtlety, Kokie depicts Matt's emotions as he uncovers the details of T.J's hidden life. Through raw moments and strikingly mature characterizations, Kokie explores loss, personal relationships, and the burden of preconceptions. Ages 14-up. Agent: Chris Richman, Upstart Crow Literary.
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With a pen dipped in adrenaline, E.M. Kokie tells a harrowing story of profound grief and powerful honesty. Read it immediately.
—Ellen Wittlinger, author of the Michael L. Printz Honor winner Hard Love
PERSONAL EFFECTS is a courageous book about the anger and pain of loss. But most of all, it is about different kinds of love.
—Francisco X. Stork, author of Marcelo in the Real World and The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
Timely, passionate, and political, PERSONAL EFFECTS is a story that needs to be told. Heartbreaking and heart-opening at the same time.
—James Howe, author of The Misfits and Totally Joe
The devastating power of secrets and grief are perfectly captured in Matt's journey to finding the truth about his brother—and ultimately, himself.
—Jo Knowles, author of Jumping Off Swings and See You at Harry’s
PERSONAL EFFECTS is a smart, rugged, hugely insightful book that elevates an already soaring genre. E.M. Kokie glides along that fine line between comedy and tragedy to tell a sensational story.
—Chris Crutcher, a Margaret A. Edwards Award-winning author
Writing with grace and subtlety, Kokie depicts Matt's emotions as he uncovers the details of T.J's hidden life. Through raw moments and strikingly mature characterizations, Kokie explores loss, personal relationships, and the burden of preconceptions.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Posted May 22, 2013
Posted August 2, 2013
Posted September 22, 2012
This here is one book you can’t possibly give any details about because anything at all would be a spoiler. Needless to say this is going to be one hard review to write.
Matt has a lot going on. It’s like the understatement of the year. He lives with his scary father who keeps pushing him to enlist after graduation, his older brother T.J. was blown to bits in Iraq about 6 months prior, he’s crushing hard on his best friend, his grades are non-existent, and he is angry… really angry.
A series of events occur that lead Matt to want to know more about his brother while he was a soldier on duty. When T.J.’s lockers are delivered to their home, Matt does everything possible to keep a piece of his brother with him while doing right by his memory.
I was definitely impressed with the writing in the sense that you feel every bit of angst that is sent your way. It was incredibly real. It didn’t matter whether it was Matt or another character speaking at the time, you just knew exactly what that person was feeling and why, no questions asked. I honestly couldn’t put this book down. I had to know what was coming next. Let me tell you, this book is definitely NOT predictable. You won’t see anything coming and that too was impressive. Many props to the author. She pieced everything together in such a way that it unfolded seamlessly leaving you with a jaw dropping WHAT THE HECK just happened kind of look on your face one minute and a jaw dropping WHAT NOW look a minute after.
THE ONLY problem I had with the book was the use of some language that just seemed out of character for Matt and it really felt like a slap in the face. I literally felt the slap. Weird, I know. The words were U.G.L.Y. I can understand his initial shock that led to these ugly words AND he later had a change of heart, however, he never voiced how wrong he was to use those words or how ashamed he felt using/thinking those words. I needed to feel that resentment. I needed the reader to know that it wasn’t cool at all to think that way. Eh… It’s only my opinion but as a mom who would like to recommend this read to her kid, I’d like a book this powerful and possibly influential to ensure that words like that are definitely not ok.
Overall, this is a great read. I didn’t feel happy at the end of this book. I felt sad. The book doesn’t have a true happily ever after but it didn’t need to because like in real life some things are just a work in progress. Matt does walk away a stronger person with a plan to live happier and I couldn’t help but feel hope and love for this kid.
A week later, I’m still trying to process all of the thoughts and emotions this great read has provoked.
ARC provided by Candlewick Press via NetGalley.
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Posted September 12, 2012
This book will break your heart. More than once. It will make you angry. It will make you smile. It will make your throat close up in the way throats do when you’re about to cry but have to hold it in, because you need to finish this chapter you just can’t wait so Do Not Cry. Personal Effects, E.M. Kokie’s debut YA is about Matt Foster: seventeen and angry. And not dealing well with the recent death of his older brother, T.J., in Iraq. “Not dealing well” doesn’t cover it. His father’s not dealing in a worse way, and taking it out on Matt. Nothing new there: dad is ex-military himself, raising his sons with his fists to be real men and real soldiers. Matt adored T.J. Younger by several years, T.J. was everything Matt strove to be—and was convinced he’d never live up to. And then Matt had nothing but the footlockers of T.J.’s personal effects, delivered by the Army. Disobeying his dad’s Not Dealing With It—and risking one of the worst beatings of his life—Matt sneaks into his brother’s old room and opens the footlockers. Among the clothes, CDs, and books, he finds packets of photographs and letters. Some are from him and their father. Most are from a woman named Celia. Matt knew nothing about her, but as he reads the letters and studies the photographs, he realizes just how important Celia was to his brother. On the bottom is one last letter. T.J. never got a chance to send it. So Matt, angry, lost, heartbroken – but not admitting it – decides Celia needs this letter. So what if he’s in Pennsylvania and she’s in Wisconsin? He needs to do this. It’s what he finds in Wisconsin that changes everything. Kokie gives us a troubled young man who nevertheless commands our attention and sympathy from the first page. I rooted for him almost immediately. Matt and his situation are immediate and gripping. His home, his school, his memories, his troubles—Kokie has the enviable talent of making the characters as real as the people sitting next to me on the bus. Traveling with Matt to the end of the last chapter is a journey worth taking. You will not quickly forget him. E.M. Kokie has given us a winner.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.