Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory

“Having a friend made everything else suck less.” 
 ― Laurie Halse Anderson, The Impossible Knife of Memory
Book Title: The Impossible Knife of Memory
Author:Laurie Halse Anderson
Publication Date: 2014
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Realistic Fiction, PTSD
Goodreads Rating: 4.25 Stars 
My Rating: 5 Stars

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.

Let me start by saying that while I’m a HUGE fan of Laurie Halse Anderson, her books are tough. Rape, depression, bullemia, cutting… She is not scared to go there because she sees her body of writing as a way to help teens connect and, hopefully, help them with the problems they are facing. So, of course, when I saw on Twitter that Anderson was coming out with a new novel, I had to have it. Last night, I found it at the library in a sheer twist of fate, since it was released just last week.

When I got home, I started reading it. And reading it. And reading it. Next thing I know, I’m finished the book and it’s past my bedtime. Woah. I can’t remember the last time I sat down a read a book cover to cover. This book grabbed me.The main character is entrancing. It is told from first person point of view, so you can really get into Hayley’s head. I felt like her big sister while I was reading it. I would want to shake my finger at her every time she started a fight with Finn or skipped class. I wanted to hold her and comfort her when she got in a fight with her dad. Watching her struggle and grow throughout the book is the definition of a coming of age story. You see her process, grow, withdraw, gain insight. I cannot say it enough. This character is developed.Of course, PTSD is something that is almost taboo in our society, like many mental illnesses are. The people who deal with it day to day are prescribed medicine, but most of them aren’t given the treatment they need to overcome their trauma. While I know people who have dealt with (and are still dealing with) PTSD, I feel like I will never be able to comprehend their struggles because it’s something so far out of my element. This novel did a great job of shedding light on this common, and often mistreated, mental illness. Anderson grew up with a father who suffered from PTSD, so this book is a way of talking about her past, as well as spreading the word about the horrors our soldiers suffer with on a daily basis.

I wouldn’t say this was a novel about PTSD. This was a novel about a child having to raise a parent, about a girl realizing the strength within herself, about a father coming to terms with his past, and about the hope for a better future.

Read this book.

 “Everyone is born a freak,” notes Hayley. “Every newborn baby, wet and hungry and screaming, is a fresh-hatched freak who wants to have a good time and make the world a better place. . . . Most teenagers wind up in high school. And high school is where the zombification process becomes deadly.”
“I turned the page in Slaughterhouse Five, a forbidden book at Belmont because we were too young to read about soldiers swearing and bombs dropping and bodies blowing up and war sucking.”
“I swallowed the fear. It’s always there– fear– and if you don’t stay on top of it, you’ll drown. I swallowed again and stood tall, shoulders broad, arms loose. I was balanced, ready to move. My body said, “Yeah, you’re bigger and stronger, but if you touch this, I will hurt you.”
“The smoke shifted direction and I breathed in. Breathed out. On the inhale I was angry. On the exhale…there it was again. Fear. The fear made me angry and the anger made me afraid and I wasn’t sure who he was anymore. Or who I was.”
 “I hadn’t planned on telling him the truth. It had become easier to lie about most things because it didn’t hurt as much when he ignored me. In my defense, I hadn’t planned on finding him clear-eyed and sober, either. It was hard to know how to play the game when the rules kept changing.”
“Leaning against my father, the sadness finally broke open inside me, hollowing out my heart and leaving me bleeding. My feet felt rooted in the dirt. There were more than two bodies buried here. Pieces of me that I didn’t even know were under the ground. Pieces of dad, too.”

2 thoughts on “Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory

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