Thursday, September 6, 2012

Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie

book cover of Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie

Title: Personal Effects
Author: E.M. Kokie
Release date: September 11, 2012
Publisher: Candlewick
Pages: 352
Source: ALA
Reading level: YA

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.

Personal Effects has been on my to-read list since I first heard about it. I had really high expectations for this book and while it wasn’t quite as awesome as I had hoped it was still a great debut from E.M. Kokie.
It’s always interesting to read a book told from a male point of view that is written by a female. E.M. Kokie really captured the male perspective and Matt never came across as contrived or false. Matt was both the average teenage boy but also so much more. He thought about girls and sex and his future but those things were always second in his mind. Always at the forefront was worry about his dad and what kind of mood he might be in or what he might do to set him off. His home life was terrible but he tried not to let it affect the rest of his day-to-day life. Sure he had some attitude issues and he caused a bit of trouble at school but mainly he was a good guy. He was funny and kind-hearted. He was just misunderstood by most people.
The secondary characters were surprisingly well-developed. At first it seemed like Matt’s dad would just be the nasty father who didn’t really have any reason to be that way but I was pleasantly surprised when his back-story was revealed. He had a lot more going on than I originally thought and while I never really felt anything for him, by the end I could kind of understand him. Shauna was my favorite character by far. She was super nice and funny and lovable and she was the best friend ever to Matt. She stuck with him through everything and even when she was super mad at him she always cared for him. And while the rest of the characters play a big role in the story they weren’t actually present for a lot of the book. However they were well-developed and I really felt connected to them.
The story itself actually reminds me a bit of another military related book that was released this year; In Honor by Jessi Kirby. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying they are anything alike it’s just that the stories have some similarities that I really enjoyed in both of them. Matt finds out some things about his brother and he sets off on a road-trip to do one last thing to honor T.J. The road trip is only a minor part of the story; it’s what he finds when he reaches his destination that really changes everything for him. There was so much more to the story than the summary hinted at and there were quite a few surprising revelations. I would say that Personal Effects is a more serious, boy version of In Honor.
Overall, Personal Effects is another fabulous contemporary for 2012. Military related books seem to be a new trend this year and of the few that I have read I think Personal Effects is definitely one of the best!
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  1. Kristin

    It also reminds me of Something Like Normal, just because it’s a military type book. I am really enjoying all the books that have been coming out with male narrators definitely something fresh and new to read in YA. I have been curious about this one, Thanks for your review!

    Kristin @ Young Adult Book Haven

  2. Alexa

    I loved this book! I think this is going to be in the top 10 best books I read this year. I loved the male pov and the fact that it was real to what could happen in real life. I’m so tired of paranormal stories where nothing could actually happen so this read was real and heartbreaking for me. I loved every second of it so I’m a little sad to see you didn’t all out love this debut.

    Thanks for the great review!

  3. Christina Kit.

    I really liked this one too. I loved the brother’s relationship and I agree that Matt was a realistic teenage boy whom I connected with instantly!!

    Another author who’s a woman who “gets” a male voice perfectly is Gayle Forman in Where She Went, and of course Trish Doller in Something Like Normal (also a book about someone serving in the Armed Forces)

    Hope she writes more novels, she’s got loads of talent 🙂

    Lovely review 🙂

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