The Low Down: Matt has been pretty angry ever since his brother, T.J., was killed in Iraq. There’s not anyone to talk to about it – not his hard-ass, talks-with-his-fists former-military dad; not the ineffectual school counselor; not even his best, and only, friend, Shauna. Then the military shows up with three footlockers full of T.J.’s belongings. Since Matt’s dad has already removed any evidence of T.J.’s existence from the house, Matt decides that he needs to break into those trunks and find something – anything – that he can keep that was T.J.’s. It is in the last box, on the very bottom, that he finds the photos and letters from Celia. And one, lone, last undelivered letter to Celia…from T.J.
Matt’s failing at school. If he doesn’t get his act together, he may not graduate with his class next year. But when he finds that letter, he just knows he has to deliver it in person to this mystery girl. Who has a child. T.J.’s? He just has no idea that the information he will return with is not what he set out to find.
Best Thang ‘Bout It: The heaviness, the depression, the ache, the loneliness, the anger – they are so palpable. Matt’s longing to be more than best friends with Shauna. Matt’s savage beating of the anti-war student at school. Matt’s tension with his dad. Matt’s loss of his mother. The fight with Curtis. All so real and gut-wrenching. The hope at finding out more about his brother and who he was to other people. Matt finding his strength.
I’m Cranky Because: It was a fabulous book, but I am always affected for a while after stories like this – the real ones that cause you to look at everything through a tinge of sadness.
Should You?: Absolutely. I give it thirteen tissues.
Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie was published on September 11, 2012 by Candlewick.
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary War
Ages: 14 and up