impossible knife of memory
Title: The Impossible Knife of Memory
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Release Date: 01/07/2014

Reviewed by: Emily

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?

At the beginning, Hayley was one of those characters that I can’t stand. She talked about how everyone is a zombie (except her and her friends, of course; they’re super rad freaks). As the book went on, she mentioned the zombies vs freaks thing less and less, which was good. The “Everyone is a sheep but not me because I’m Better(TM)” trope irritates me because with female main characters it often turns into the “Not like other girls” trope. That didn’t happen here, thank goodness, and Hayley did have positive interactions with other girls throughout the book. I don’t criticize any other angst because, hey, she’s a teenager dealing with a tough home life. I definitely empathize with that.

The Impossible Knife of Memory is about Hayley trying to take care of herself and her father who suffers from war-related PTSD while simultaneously pretending the situation isn’t as dire and dangerous as it really is. On one hand, in my own experiences I know I wouldn’t have had to suffer through as much if my parents had just admitted that something was wrong. On the other, Hayley is the child. She shouldn’t have had to shoulder that burden, and I feel that Anderson did an amazing job portraying Hayley’s experiences. The ending found the sweet spot between end-of-the-world despair and tie-it-up-with-a-pretty-bow happily ever after that really fit with the tone of the whole novel.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s portrayals of panic attacks and depersonalization were incredibly accurate. Her story pulls on the heartstrings while remaining honest and not over-doing it. I would recommend The Impossible Knife of Memory to anyone who loves contemporary YA. 

Also there was a dog named Spock, which I loved.