Review: Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie

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Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie

Publication Date: September 11, 2012
Page Count: 352 pages
Format: ebook
Published by: Candlewick Press
Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange of an honest review

Synopsis From Goodreads:

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.(

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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.

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
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  1. I just picked this one up from the library and I'm scared to read it. I know it will break my heart a little bit. Thanks for a great review!

    1. I was scared to read it too. I think it took me a month to get up the nerve because I just knew I was going to cry. It's definitely worth reading.

  2. Wow, this one sounds really good. I'm not usually much of one for tearjerkers, but I think if I see this one around, I'll have to pick it up! thanks for the review!

    1. The tears thing may just be me - I'm emotional like that. You should definitely read it.


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