Monday, March 3, 2014


The Impossible Knife of Memory
by Laurie Halse Anderson
****4 of 5 stars

Viking Juvenile
Release Date: January 7, 2014
Genre: YA, Realistic fiction
Pages: 372
Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

The Impossible Knife of Memory has some truly beautiful passages where we see inside her father's head, where the description of PTSD through his character was powerful and filled with an aching, sad kind of hope, with some really memorable and well-written scenes that stay in your mind. I realize that it's tough to write a realistic book about such a hard subject, and the pain and struggle that Laurie Halse Anderson tries to convey will reach readers in varying degrees. It touched me in particular to see a student so obviously struggling, yet none of the (more or less stereotypically ignorant/emotionally blind) teachers could manage to connect with her. As a teacher, you can recognize signs, and really, they didn't do much to help. But you get the feeling that in this situation things are often helpless, which makes the story feel more realistic.

I felt that the main character was hard to connect with, maybe because at times she felt a little too much like a stereotypically angry/rebellious teenager. While I had a hard time with those overinflated parts of her character, I thought how she tried to bury her bad memories and felt such sharp pain each time they resurfaced was well written--both giving her character a sharper edge and allowing me to sympathize more. Also, Finn's initial interest in her was never really explained, so it left me wondering why he was attracted to her. They're both kind of goofy characters, and do develop some good chemistry.

In the end, it turns out to be a story to evoke compassion and understanding, as well as send a subtle message that people have problems that you aren't aware of, and that it's not always a good idea to make assumptions about them without knowing . . . something that I think Hayley gradually comes to realize.

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