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"Saying 'I notice you're a nerd' is like saying, 'Hey, I notice that you'd rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you'd rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Lindsay Lohan. Why is that?' In fact, it seems to me that most contemporary insults are pretty lame. Even 'lame' is kind of lame. Saying 'You're lame' is like saying 'You walk with a limp.' Yeah, whatever, so does 50 Cent, and he's done all right for himself."— John Green


The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (Review)

Title: The Impossible Knife of Memory
Author(s): Laurie Halse Anderson
Edition: Hardcover, 391 pages
Publisher: Viking Children's Books (imprint of Penguin
Publication Date: January 7, 2014
Source: Bought from Amazon
Buy: Amazon Barnes & Noble - Book Depository

The Summary

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.

My Opinion

I love Laurie Halse Anderson.  I am obsessed with Speak and I love Wintergirls, so I thought I was going to really love this book as well and I'm disappointed to say I didn't.  Don't get me wrong, it was still very good.  I'm happy I read it and it is worth the read, but it was not my favorite.

Hayley, the protagonist, has been living with her father, moving from city to town to on the road, for a good chunk of her life.  Her father has been dealing, or in this case, not dealing, with the trauma he suffered from his time fighting in Iraq.  With his major PTSD issues, Hayley has had to be the parent in this relationship, and it is becoming harder as they start over again in her father's hometown.

I realize that in reading a book you don't always connect with the characters, especially if their lives are different from yours.  But in my experience I have always found something to connect to, but while reading this book I couldn't find much.  This surprised me because I am such a fan of Laurie's other books, so I thought I'd instantly fall in love.  But the characters, all the characters, rubbed me the wrong way.  I don't know if this was on purpose to highlight the major issues with how our country deals with PTSD and soldiers coming home from war, or if it was just that I didn't like these characters.  It's hard to tell, so I'm running with the former theory.

Each of the characters in this book had something messed up with them, a lot of which stemmed from hiding the pain/suffering they were feeling.  I think there is a major problem within our society that goes with "Don't air your dirty laundry", but as I wasn't raised that way, I can't really relate.  The fact that Hayley allows her father to spiral so much or that the VA allows him to spiral so much is ridiculous.  No one in Hayley's life is calling them on the bullshit.  Even with her hiding the extent of it, and them moving all the time, I feel that someone should be noticing.  But again, I think that this situation probably very accurately depicts what happens at home after living through such a tumultuous and violent experience.

I think that's really the root of my not loving this book: it made me extremely uncomfortable in parts.  The possibility of violence, the abandonment, the hopelessness, it all made for a hard read.  I think I also take it harder because that could have been my Father having to deal with that war (luckily he retired right before the first wave was deployed).  Overall, the writing was still beautiful, with Laurie's deft hand at lyricism.  The characters, while I couldn't relate, still feel real.  I feel like each of them are a real person alive out in the world dealing with these issues.  And of course the "moral", or issue I suppose, that is at the heart of all of Laurie's books is quite striking and gets at the heart of it.

While this wasn't my favorite, as I said, it is still a very important book.  I think that if you're a fan of Laurie's go in without the typical expectations.  If you're a fan of contemporary problem fiction, then I think you'll enjoy this.  The Impossible Knife of Memory leaves you on a razor's edge keeping you teetering though moments of joy and moments of pain; an uncomfortable journey to be had, but one worth traveling.


Final Rating

Book Cover: 3/5

Book Title: 4/5
Plot: 8/10
Characters: 8/10
Writing: 9/10
Ending: 8/10
Overall: 40/50: B-

1 comment:

  1. I've been meaning to read this one since I loved the other books as well. Thanks for letting me know what to look out for when I do read it! I seem to get annoyed when I read books where people just let things happen rather than do something about it.


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