Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie
"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."- summary from Amazon
This was such a compelling debut. I came across this book while browsing around Candlewick's booth at BEA and it sounded so intriguing. I thought I would have a copy mailed to me after talking to the publicist there and giving my business card, but none arrived; luckily, there's Netgalley. I was so intrigued about the secret, which I won't mention here but that I did find in the Library of Congress subject matter inside the galley, that I knew I wanted to read this book. I'm so glad I was able to read an e-galley.
Matt is a fantastic main character, and Kokie writes him very well; first off, he sounds like a real teen boy, which is a huge feat to accomplish, and secondly, there's his inner turmoil and adjusting to the revelations he finds out about. The grief is very real and huge, but the reader can see that he wants to be able to move on, especially through his interactions with his friend Shauna who he has feelings for.
I enjoyed reading about Matt's journey, and seeing his growth throughout the book. It's such an emotional arc, and Kokie really delivers on it. This is a book that will stay with you and is a wonderful debut. I cannot wait to see what Kokie writes next.
FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.