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I’m a little nervous to write this review because some of the plot that I loved the most could easily be spoiled. So, I’m trying to be careful here.

I really liked this book. E.M. Kokie and I have exchanged a few emails and more than a few rounds of Scrabble. We connected because we were both writing books that touched on the subject of war and military. I was ecstatic to read her book early! It will be released September 11, 2012.

Personal Effects features a boy named Matt, who is trying so hard to figure out how to be a man — how to make his father proud without going into the military, like his brother and his father before him. With his mom long gone, his brother now dead, and his severe (arguably abusive) father not talking about either of them, Matt can’t cope. When Matt looks through his beloved brother’s personal effects, he begins to discover a different person than the brother he thought he knew.

I love Matt’s struggle to find his brother and himself. Matt is as tough on the outside as he is fragile on the inside. When you first meet him, he’s barely hanging on. You think he has nothing else to lose. You think maybe you’re in for a book about a guy who just needs to slowly build his life back, and whammo. It gets worse for Matt. Kokie doesn’t let her character off the hook for even a second. With rich and wonderful details, Kokie sucked me into a rough and uncomfortable, beautiful and rare kind of story — one celebrating individuality, diversity, non-conformity and love. I can’t wait to buy the hardback edition and see it among my favorites in my personal library. For other lovers of contemporary YA fiction, this one is a must read!