Friday, November 20, 2015
Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie
Personal Effects is a teen novel about a delicate subject: a young guy, Matt, is dealing with grief after his brother, T.J., is killed in combat in Iraq. Much of the book takes place in Matt's head as he goes through the stages of grief and attempts to reconcile the memory of his brother with the truth he discovers as the story unfolds.
After his brother is killed, Matt’s personal life is understandably affected. He’s doing poorly in school and getting into fights. Matt becomes fixated with the idea of acquiring T.J.’s belongings. This determination to get ahold of T.J.'s personal effects drives the plot, but that part of the story is bookended by Matt's fragile relationship with his father. His father is abusive and controlling; yet at the same time, he's also suffering on the inside, even as he treats Matt horribly every day.
In many ways, the reader gets a good picture of who T.J. was; however, everything that’s revealed about him has passed through the filter of other people's eyes. Ultimately, things are not quite what they seem. As is the case when death and grief are involved, the book is more about how those left behind are affected and how they’ll manage to survive following a shared tragedy.
Search the VBPL catalog for Personal Effects. For another teen book that explores sensitive themes involving the military and coping after a loss, try Something Like Normal by Trish Doller.