Author: Laurie Halse Anderson (Twitter)
Publish Date: January 7, 2014
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Source: Personal Copy
For the past five years, Hayley Kincain 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.
You know those really amazing contemporary novels that you read and end up closing the final page absolutely speechless? The Impossible Knife of Memory is one of those books, and I have to admit that I'm not surprised. In a time when contemporary books didn't work for me at all, Laurie Halse Anderson's books rang true with a sort of genuine sincerity in the midst of novels plagued by meaningless, fleeting relationships and petty drama. Yet again, Ms. Anderson has crafted a story that, if you allow it, will speak to your soul.
I put off reading The Impossible Knife of Memory for a long time because I worried not only about the subject matter, but about the mixed reviews I was seeing from some of my favourite bloggers. I felt, from the start, that Hayley's voice rang completely true. Written from her perspective, we see layer after layer of venom, snide remarks, outward hostility and pretense, which offers her a thin facade from the world her father has created for them through his trauma. She's a very broken, shattered teenager, and while some might see her persona as "snark," I see it instead as a fading veneer that offers her little respite from the storm that rages both around her and inside of her.
The PTSD storyline is something I worried about. Being married to a war veteran and active-duty soldier, I've seen PTSD firsthand, both in mild forms like my husband's and in severe forms like some of his battle buddies. I've seen grown men hit the floor when weights fall in the gym - solely because of the sound bringing back a flood of memories. Naturally, I worried that The Impossible Knife of Memory might err on the side of cliches. Instead, I was surprised to find that Ms. Anderson tactfully shows us fragments of Andy's persona and illness, but she doesn't go into graphic detail. Rather, she focuses mainly upon Hayley, which gives us direction through the murky drama that PTSD entails. In the end, it must be said that this was well done because it is extremely difficult to paint a familiar portrait of an ailment that plagues its victims all in different manners.
This novel does offer us a romance, and while at first I felt that throwing Finn into the mix was merely a young adult ploy, I began to see it change and mold Hayley into someone new throughout the story. I've seen bloggers call it fake and forced, but I think that The Impossible Knife of Memory, for the most part, played this part well. While, I'll admit that the relationship started rocky for me, I began to see the beauty under the surface of their carefully-crafted snark and banter. Two broken souls were healing each other, and it was wonderful.
Overall, I was really impressed by The Impossible Knife of Memory. I think that the only real gripe I had with the story was the text-type throughout the book. There is something about seeing multiple abbreviations that makes me so irritated (and it does in texts, as well), and that threw me for a loop a few times. Despite that, I give this story a high 4 out of 5, and I definitely recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction.