Book Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory

The Impossible Knife of Memory
By: Laurie Halse Anderson
Audiobook Narrator: Julia Whelan, Luke Daniels
Published By: Viking Books for Young Readers, Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Page Count: 391
Source: Library Copy
Audience/Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Buy it at Indiebound, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble

 As I started this book, I had a moment where I paused the audio and said aloud in my car to no one in particular, "Oh how I've missed you, Lauria Halse Anderson!" If you've read a book by Anderson before, you know she writes real teenagers and adults, each incredibly nuanced, flawed, and wonderful in their own way with absolutely no sugar coating. I'm happy to tell you The Impossible Knife of Memory is no different. 17-year-old Hayley and her veteran father create a unique and believable family dynamic that draws you into their story. 

As Hayley deals with adjusting to a traditional high school after years on the road with her father, she's also  forced to deal with the realities of being the only real adult in the house. Her father suffers from PTSD and can't seem to hold a job or, some days, get out of bed. Throughout the book she's forced to pick him up from bars, protect him from the school counselor, hide her life from her boyfriend and best friend, and act like the adult her father just cannot be.

Anderson does a brilliant job balancing Hayley's fathers flaws to keep the reader from feeling any one positive or negative emotion for him, much like his daughter would. And Hayley herself is written in a truly honest and raw way that reminded me of an older version of Melinda from Anderson's novel Speak (my review on Reading Lark). Hayley certainly isn't a delicate flower, but she's not nearly as strong as she thinks she is or as strong as she needs to be to deal with the realities of her father and their live together. Help come sin the form of her boyfriend Finn and Trish, her father's former girlfriend, who are both great supporting characters.

As a trigger warning, I'll include that this novel deals with both suicide and PTSD, but know that Anderson deals with them in a way I found reverent and realistic. I can't wait to recommend this novel to my students!

Summary via Goodreads

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.