Author: E.M. Kokie
Source: Finished copy received at ALAN Workshop
Summary (From Goodreads):
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.
Personal Effects is a strong debut, so strong that I’m looking forward to reading more of E.M. Kokie’s books. Matt is a a well-written character with a believable male voice; Personal Effects will appeal to both my male and female students. I loved watching his character grow and I enjoyed the supporting characters as well. I do think there’s slightly too much focus on T.J. and the answers Matt discovers. I appreciated this part of the story, but I wanted more from Matt at the end of the book and less of T.J. T.J.’s story overshadows Matt’s towards the end.
Also, is it just me or is the “tough military dad” trope getting old? I understand why Matt’s dad is written this way and how it’s necessary to the story, but overall I’m bored with it, especially with all of the military YA being released. There has to be some kind military fathers out there, right?
Overall, Kokie has written a solid and enjoyable book that I know my students will love.
Author: A.S. King
Source: ARC received from the publisher
Summary (From Goodreads): Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn’t know the passengers inside, but they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl.
As her secret relationship becomes more intense and her friends demand answers, Astrid has nowhere left to turn. She can’t share the truth with anyone except the people at thirty thousand feet, and they don’t even know she’s there. But little does Astrid know just how much even the tiniest connection will affect these strangers’ lives–and her own–for the better.
In this truly original portrayal of a girl struggling to break free of society’s definitions, Printz Honor author A.S. King asks readers to question everything–and offers hope to those who will never stop seeking real love.
There’s a reason A.S. King is one of my favorite authors and Ask the Passengers is a prime example. She really knows how to write true, honest characters that resonate with readers. Astrid is a wonderful character who wants to send love to people, even to the passengers on the airplanes above. She’s loyal to her friends and patient with her family even when they treat her poorly. Readers will connect with Astrid because she’s so easy to like and understand.
What I really like about Ask the Passengers is the way Astrid looks at love. She doesn’t want to be defined as a lesbian because 1. she doesn’t know if she really is or not, and 2. she wants to be able to love who she loves; she doesn’t think there needs to be a label. In this case, Astrid is trying to figure out who she is while also trying to figure out when/if to tell her friends and family. There’s pressure on both ends which really drives the story and develops both Astrid and the supporting characters. I love it when more than just the main character shows growth; A.S. King wrote many of the supporting characters as more than static characters.
I absolutely loved this book and hope it gets more acclaim than it already has. If you haven’t read any of A.S. King’s books, Ask the Passengers is a great place to start.
As always, thank you for the Flash Reviews idea, GreenBeanTeenQueen!