by E.M. Kokie
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. (Description from Amazon.com)
Wow. This debut novel blew me away. Before I tell you why, let me note that this book is getting what will probably be my last gold star for the year!
This book was touching. This book was funny. This book was...it was everything. I ran the gamut of emotions right alongside Matt as he discovered who his brother actually was...and who that makes him.
This book touches on some heavy topics. Grief, homosexuality, abuse, love, and it does it all while still feeling natural. Matt is a fully realized character surrounded by people that have interesting facets, as well. The way that even characters who are no longer in the story manage to become fleshed out as the tale progresses...that takes talented writing and storybuilding.
My heart broke for this character and then rejoiced as he was reborn into a stronger, more complete person. Well done. Impossible to put down and well worth reading.
Full disclosure: Audio book received to review for SLJ