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Personal Effects
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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...
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...
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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.

 

Awards-

About the Author-

  • E. M. Kokie is an attorney, but has long had a strong interest in literature for teens. Personal Effects is her first novel. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 24, 2012
    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.

  • School Library Journal

    January 1, 2013

    Gr 10 Up-In this gripping debut novel that doesn't pull punches, Matt, 17, is still reeling from the death of his brother, T.J., who was killed while serving in Iraq. He's getting into fights at school, his grades are falling, and he's becoming distant with his friend and crush, Shauna. When three trunks of T.J.'s belongings arrive on his doorstep, Matt discovers his brother's long-time relationship with Celia Carson by reading through stacks of letters. At the bottom of the trunk, still sealed and addressed in T.J.'s handwriting, is the last letter his brother wrote to Celia, but never got to send. An impromptu road trip from Pennsylvania to hand deliver the letter sounds like a great escape from final exams and his volatile and violent father. However, in Wisconsin, Matt discovers a side to his brother he never knew: T.J. was gay and had a long-term relationship with Celia's brother. Could this be the incentive Matt needs to break away from his father's blind insistence that he pursue a future in the military? Kokie beautifully crafts a story about the troubled relationships between an emotionally stunted father and his two sons. Both T.J. and Matt are forced to deal with their own pain in secret. A strong choice for reluctant readers and lovers of realistic fiction alike.-Richelle Roth, Boone County Public Library, KY

    Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2012
    "Embrace the suck," is Matt Foster's older brother T.J.'s advice to him, and he's got a whole lot of suck to embrace. Not only did T.J. leave Matt with their vicious, alcoholic father--their bipolar mother died years ago--when he enlisted and then deployed to the Middle East, now he is dead. Their father resolutely refuses to talk about T.J., and he's hidden the small bag of stuff the "uniforms" brought the Fosters when they notified them of T.J'.s death. Under suspension for fighting--and threat of "so help me..." if he doesn't get his ass back in gear--Matt finds an unexpected opportunity when more uniforms drop off his brother's remaining personal effects: trunks containing photographs of a beautiful black woman and her family and often-steamy letters from "C." With help from his lifelong friend Shauna, he plots an escape to Madison, Wisc., where he hopes to connect with his brother's memory. Matt tells his tale in an almost excruciatingly deliberate present-tense narration; Kokie grounds readers so thoroughly in Matt's misery that they will be as itchy to escape the brutal emptiness of life with his father as he is. Realistically, though the inevitable revelation and resolution bring peace to Matt, they do not heal his father; readers will just have to hope he can make it through. A fine addition to the literature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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    Candlewick Press
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