Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory is a heartbreaking book about a  condition that is probably more common than we would like to believe.

Hayley doesn't remember ever attending a normal school She's been traveling across country in her dad's truck, and he's been homeschooling her since he got home from the war. Her dad decides she needs to go to a regular school to prepare for college, so they move into Hayley's grandmother's house and Hayley attends high school. Hayley doesn't remember living here when she was younger. It turns out, Hayley has blocked out much of her tumultuous childhood.

Hayley's father is suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He can't hold down a job, he drinks a lot, and he spends a lot of time locked in his room. Hayley tries to lead a normal life, but it's an impossible situation for a teen.

Hayley begins a romantic involvement with Finn. It turns out Finn has his own family problems that are slowly revealed. And the relationship develops very slowly and is a bumpy road.  No insta-love here! Hayley's best friend's parents end up splitting up during the story. So, really every character in this book lives in a dysfunctional family. It really drags you down.

What Hayley and her father go through during the course of the book is mind-blowing. The sensible person inside me wants to say, "Get him to counselling!" But, it's just not that easy. From now on, I'm going to be hesitant to thank our military personnel for their service, in case they are suffering from PTSD and this might be a trigger as it is for Hayley's father.

And while the resolution is hopeful, we never really figure out why Hayley has blocked out her childhood and why she has so many fears. For example, what was the deal at the mall? I didn't understand her reaction. I felt like we know a lot about Hayley's father at the end, but I still had a lot of questions about Hayley.

The best part of The Impossible Knife of Memory is Hayley's relationship with Finn. They are both intelligent, and their banter as they try to one-up each other is priceless.

I didn't really fall in love with The Impossible Knife of Memory like I thought I would after reading so many rave reviews. But I really liked this book and will highly recommend it to my teen contemporary fans.

Published by Viking Juvenile, January 7, 2014
Copy obtained from the library
391 pages

Rating: 4/5

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  1. Yeah, this is one of those books that is touching and memorable, but also depressing and hard to read. I've come to expect that from Anderson, though. I'm glad you ended up liking this one, even if you didn't love, love, love it.

  2. I'm a big fan of Anderson so I'm sure I will like it. I admire her for tackling important issues that people are uncomfortable to talk about. I have this on my shelf and I just have to fit it in my schedule! Great review.


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