Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie

Genre: YA

It's Raining Men! 2012 Challenge

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Says: 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.

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.


  1. If the book doesn't provoke me, I forget it pretty quickly. I love when I think about it for days and when it makes me challenge everything I thougt I knew. Thank you for review. I'll read this one for sure.

    1. Ok... I wrote a review about a week ago and just realized that what you wrote above is pretty much what I wrote about this book I'm about to post a review for!

      Great minds think alike! ;-)

  2. Hi there, the October edition of Books You Loved is live. Here is the link Books You Loved October Edition Please do pop by and link in a post about a book you loved. Maybe this one? Cheers

    PS I am a follower of your blog. I know you have linked in before, too – which is great. Would you consider following Carole's Chatter back – or are you already?