July 2012 Indie Next List
“Personal Effects portrays a teenager dealing with the loss of his brother who was killed in Iraq. Matt and his father are each dealing with the loss in different ways, making it hard for Matt to come to terms with T. J.'s death. Increasingly, Matt becomes obsessed with questions about his brother's past. In learning more about T. J., Matt grows and matures. This is a powerful book, full of many timely issues.”
— Sue Richardson, Maine Coast Book Shop, Inc., Damariscotta, ME
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.
PERSONAL EFFECTS is one of the best novels I've read in a long time—it's complex, moving, and beautifully written. I want everyone I love to read this book.
—Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award Finalist, Coretta Scott King Award winner, and Newbery Honor winner
With a pen dipped in adrenaline, E.M. Kokie tells a harrowing story of profound grief and powerful honesty. Read it immediately.
—Ellen Wittlinger, author of the Michael L. Printz Honor winner Hard Love
PERSONAL EFFECTS is a courageous book about the anger and pain of loss. But most of all, it is about different kinds of love.
—Francisco X. Stork, author of Marcelo in the Real World and The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
Timely, passionate, and political, PERSONAL EFFECTS is a story that needs to be told. Heartbreaking and heart-opening at the same time.
—James Howe, author of The Misfits and Totally Joe
The devastating power of secrets and grief are perfectly captured in Matt's journey to finding the truth about his brother—and ultimately, himself.
—Jo Knowles, author of Jumping Off Swings and See You at Harry’s
PERSONAL EFFECTS is a smart, rugged, hugely insightful book that elevates an already soaring genre. E.M. Kokie glides along that fine line between comedy and tragedy to tell a sensational story.
—Chris Crutcher, a Margaret A. Edwards Award-winning author
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.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)