Friday, November 2, 2012

Personal Effects


Title: Personal Effects
Author: E.M. Kokie
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: September, 2012
Genre/Format: Contemporary Historical Fiction/Novel
Goodreads Summary: 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.
What Jen Thinks: For me, Personal Effects was a book that I put down and had to marvel at all that it holds within its pages. I love how Kokie brings the main character, Matt, to life. I felt such raw emotions in Matt. He is definitely a character that I wanted to know and understand right away. I was immediately drawn into his story...curious and searching for bits and pieces to get a clear picture of what was going on in his life. In the beginning, there are several chances to stop and infer, to gather the clues and piece together what is going on in Matt's life. That's what really gripped me and pulled me in the most. As a writer, I recognize how Kokie did a fantastic job of pulling the reader into the story by putting us right into an emotional situation, giving hints of Matt's life, like his friend, Shauna, his dad, his brother, other students in the school. I love where the story goes from there. We get to read more about Matt and the relationship he had with his brother and what he discovers about his brother through looking into his personal effects. I'm still in awe at how well Kokie brings Matt and the other characters to life. He so expertly uses Matt's inner dialogue to balance and bring Matt's personality to life. I just love this kid!
What Kellee Thinks: I just love that feeling of reading a really superb book. One that has it all- story, characterization, theme, grippingness, relevance, etc. etc. etc. It is very similar to eating a perfect meal, but this gives you satisfaction in your body, heart and soul. To someone who has never experienced this feeling unless they have read some of those great books out there. I'll never forget the first time I got this feeling- The Giver. 7th grade. I've been lucky to experience this feeling often in the last 18 years and this was again one of those times. From the beginning, I wanted to know Matt. I wanted to know his secrets and the reason he hurt so much. I wanted to protect him and save him. And I was so glad to be able to go on this journey with him. I also really enjoyed the cast of characters the supported Matt- Shauna, TJ, Curtis... I actually left the novel with more of a sorrow for Curtis than for Matt. 
     It is hard for me to sit here and share with you the emotions you feel as you read this book. You'll feel anger, sadness, sorrow, grief, but also an underlined joy at the end. Kokie has captured these emotions in a book and throws them at you throughout. 
     My only criticism is Matt's parents. Their inclusion seemed hollow and stereotypical and I wish I understood them more. It is such a source for so much that runs Matt that I wish there was more of a back story (prequel?). 
     This book will be a great book for discussions and deals with some heavy issues that are never more relevant than they are today. 
Read Together: Grades 10 and up 
Read Alone: Grades 9 and up 
Read With: BADD by Tim Tharp, Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington, This Is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell, See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles, Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell, Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Snatch of Text: "After I've folded myself into the chair next to her desk, she hands me a large plastic cup of water. The first tentative sip slides around my mouth. Relief, cold and clean and so good. Maybe the best-tasting water I've ever had. I take small sips, swirling it around my tongue each time before swallowing, just to savor it." (p. 17) [The rest of this page to 18 is all very good]
Mentor Text for: Emotional Impact, Characterization, Description, Making Connections, Making Inferences, Dialogue, Voice
Writing Prompts: When Matt opened T.J.'s personal effects, he found many items that reminded him of his brother's life. What would be the 5 items that you would want to make sure your loved ones got to remember you by? 
Topics Covered: War in Iraq, Military, Discipline, Friendship, Family, Death, Loss, Grief, Love, 
Jen and Kellee *heart* It: 
 and 
**Thank you to Candlewick for providing copies of Personal Effects to review**

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