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.
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.
This is an emotional contemporary with strong characterization. It has a bit of a mystery too that you want to find out more about.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD
This book is told from the 1st person perspective of a male narrator named Matt. He clearly is in a lot of emotional pain after his older brother's death at war. His father won't even talk about TJ's death, and Matt wants to get to see the things that the Army brought them after TJ died. His father won't let him look at that stuff, though. When Matt eventually decides to look at the stuff when his dad isn't home, he finds out that he didn't really know his brother. He finds letters to TJ from someone else that Matt doesn't know. When he reads them, he decides that TJ must have a wife and a daughter, and he decides he needs to go meet them.
The relationship between Shauna and Matt is developed extremely well. They have been best friends since they were children. Back then, they only saw each other as friends, but now Matt hopes there could be something more between them. He doesn't tell Shauna he likes her because he thinks she only likes him as a friend. They have some misunderstandings, especially after he goes to Shauna's sister's house when Shauna is babysitting. She tries to give off the signals that she likes him, and he doesn't take the chance to kiss her. Then, she asks to come along on his trip to meet TJ's wife, and when Matt says that it's something he has to do on his own, she thinks that means he doesn't like her back. Eventually, these two are able to figure.
Celia and Curtis are also good characters. Matt thinks that his brother was married to Celia, but it turns out that things aren't as he thought they were. TJ was actually in a relationship with Curtis, Celia's brother, but they sent the letters from Celia's address so no one in the Army would find out about TJ and Curtis. Curtis was a good guy, and it was obvious that he really loved TJ. Matt doesn't have the best reaction to finding out his brother was gay, but eventually, he learns to accept that his brother wasn't who he thought he was.
If you like YA contemporary, read this book.