Review: Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie

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This is a fantastic YA novel about Matt, a teen whose beloved older brother T.J. was killed in Iraq. Left alone with his controlling and abusive father, Matt is struggling in school, starting fistfights with kids in the halls. When T.J.’s personal effects are delivered to Matt’s house, Matt goes through them all, searching for something meaningful he can hold onto. What he finds is that T.J. was leading a secret life, one that he kept hidden from his father and brother.

Wanting to learn more about T.J., Matt travels from his home in Pennsylvania to Madison, Wisconsin, where his brother lived between deployments. Madison is one of my favorite cities on earth, so I loved reading about the adventures and revelations he experienced there.

Matt is a realistic character, and although I sometimes find it hard to relate to teenage male characters, I really liked him. He was going through some really tough stuff, but he didn’t let it break him, and he really grew throughout the novel.

I can’t say a whole lot more without revealing spoilers, but I will say that this novel turned out to be a lot deeper and more complex than I expected. I definitely recommend it.

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