September 27, 2012

REVIEW: Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie

Title: Personal Effects
Author: E.M. Kokie - Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: September 11, 2012
Format: eARC* from Netgalley; 352 pages
Rating: 3.5-4/5 stars
Get it: Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository
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.

My thoughts, feelings, and reactions.
Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie was a good novel that centered around loss, struggle, fear, hope, discovery, acceptance, and bravery.

Matt Foster- the angry, grieving main character.

He was the type of guy who was all tough and macho on the outside, but totally conflicted and fragile on the inside. I loved that he wasn’t this perfect hero or this bad boy needing to be changed. Matt was just a young adult struggling with the death of his brother, with his dad’s relentless pressure, intimidation and pushing, with his growing feelings for his best friend, and all the anger and pain he’s been bottling up and dealing with on his own. Matt doesn’t really know what to do and he seemed a little lost. Seeing him fall a part and having to deal with all this by himself was painful to read. However, Matt really overcomes all these obstacles. He stands up, fights back, and makes his own decisions that are really unselfish and totally admirable. He becomes stronger, happier, and just a better person. 

The writing, the pacing, and the great male POV.

While I enjoyed most of this book, I did have trouble with the slow beginning. E.M. Kokie has a great writing style, it’s there and it’s easy to get into, but it’s the pacing that becomes tiresome without a little push. I had trouble and nearly had to put this one down because things didn’t start to pick until I was 40% into the book. The beginning half had me drifting and sliding along with Matt and his torment. I felt stuck inside Matt’s thoughts until he finally did something. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but for me it just lagged. However, it was E.M. Kokie’s creation of Matt’s character that really kept me going. Matt’s narration was natural and his reactions weren’t fake or forced. Matt was all male and I saw and felt that through this whole novel. I was rolling my eyes when Matt did something stupid because it was just what I was expecting a boy would do in that situation. E.M. Kokie didn’t need to tell me that Personal Effects was in a male point of view because she showed me through Matt’s voice, his actions and feelings. Matt’s characterization really shined through in this book and that compensated for the slowness I felt initially. 

The heartbreak, the touching and inspirational parts.

E.M. Kokie does a tremendous job of really hitting where it’ll affect you. She really brings you with Matt along this journey and whatever emotions he’s feeling, you’re definitely feeling it too. There’s specifically this one part that nearly drove me to tears, because the moment was so moving. It’s also the scene that made me admire Matt way more than I did. This book deals with so many personal and heavy issues, I feel as if anyone can relate or connect with this book easily. By the end of Personal Effects, you’ll want to stand up for something just the way Matt did.

The best part.

I personally call the best part of this book, what I dubbed a “twist within a twist.” While some things that do happen in Personal Effects were predictable, the way it was set up was not. I was expecting one thing, then I got something else and right when I was accepting that last revelation, I’m hit with another that caught me off guard. I, for one, loved that. 

All in all, I thought Personal Effects was a great read. I didn’t know what to expect, but E.M. Kokie gave me something I didn’t know I was looking for. 

*Thank you so much to Netgalley and Candlewick Press for providing a copy for review

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