Released on September 11, 2012, Personal Effects tells the story of seventeen-year old Matt, whose brother T.J. was killed 6 months ago fighting in Iraq. Ever since receiving the news about T.J.’s death, Matt has been having trouble at school, getting into fights and failing classes. Matt’s relationship with his father, which has never been good, is getting worse as Matt’s father is unwilling to discuss T.J. and his death. When the army delivers T.J.’s personal effects, Matt discovers letters that will show him a new side of his brother, and a part of his life that T.J. hid from his family. Personal Effects showcases the grieving process that takes place after losing a loved one, as well as highlighting Matt’s personal growth as he learns to accept truths about T.J.’s life, and begins to create a better relationship with his father.
This story is highly recommended for young adult readers between the ages of 14-18, and especially for male readers. Personal Effects is the debut novel for author E.M. Kokie, and is a great addition to young adult literature on the topic of the aftermath of war and the effects that war has on the families of soldiers. The focus of this novel is on the family of a soldier fighting in Iraq, but Matt’s emotions revolving around letting go of his brother and learning to mature and move on with his life are relatable to all young adult readers.
Personal Effects is a novel with authentic characters learning to accept and deal with their grief and move on with their lives. Matt’s personal growth through searching for the truth about his brother’s life allows him to learn about the importance of family, of love, and of acceptance.
Kokie, E.M. (2012). Personal Effects. Berryville, VA: Candlewick Press.