Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
In Personal Effects Matt's brother T. J. is killed in Iraq. First of all, Matt's family is completely broken. His mom had a breakdown and left Matt and T. J. with their retired military father. Their father is hard on them and wants both of his boys to enlist in the military. After T. J.'s death things get worse for Matt. His dad has violent outbursts and Matt learns to watch for the signs.
When T. J.'s personal effects are returned his dad won't let Matt see them. This isn't up for discussion, but Matt can't let it go. He eventually breaks into T. J.'s things and finds out that his brother was in a relationship. Matt doesn't get how T. J. never mentioned it. He also finds a letter that T. J. didn't get to mail to his girlfriend. Matt decides he will deliver it for his brother. Matt knows that his father will never be ok with it so he skips town.
When we see female points of views we judge them for being clingy or weak and maybe I haven't read enough male point of views, but I got annoyed with Matt for being really clueless at times. The abuse from his father made him weak and sheltered him from the world. There is one point where he trusts a girl from his hostel and I wanted to yell STRANGER DANGER! He also found it really hard to stand up for himself even when it came to a girl. Matt also has these really clueless moments when it comes to girls.
Towards the end I felt sad for T. J. and Matt. You see Matt discovering this life that T. J. had and he wasn't a part of it. He thinks T. J. is gone and nothing will ever make it right. There are twist and turns you never see coming and while there is a lot of emotional pain it's definitely worth the read.
I really feel like Personal Effects is very different from anything in YA today. I also love that it's told from a male point of view. I do believe that readers, especially reluctant readers, will have a hard time getting past the first half of the book. At times it felt like it dragged on and a few times I thought about walking away from the book, but half way through, the story really grabbed me and never let go. So if you can over look the first half being slow then you will get a great story.
Audio Book Review: I think Nick Podehl did a great job as the narrator. I felt he really became Matt and he did a great job as Matt's dad and other characters. You really feel like you are in the story. As for the packaging I wasn't crazy about each CD in an individual paper envelope. Normally I like the binder type packaging, because I listen in the car so the CD's are easier to find instead of pulling all the envelopes out and having to find the right CD, which I would not recommend doing while you're driving of course.
This book was provided for review by Brilliance Audio.