Title: The Impossible Knife of Memory
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Genre: YA Realistic Fiction
Number of Pages: 416
First of all, can we take a moment to appreciate how awesome that title is? I was hesitant to read this book because it’s pretty long and my enjoyment of Laurie Halse Anderson has been pretty half and half (I liked Speak and Shout but thought Catalyst and Wintergirls were overrated.) Luckily, this one turned out to be my favorite book by her besides Speak. Like Speak‘s silent assault victim Melinda, Hayley is a teenage girl in a terrible situation.
Her dad is a veteran who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and has become an alcoholic with PTSD. His short fuse causes Hayley to fear for her safety, and she feels the need to constant supervise him so he doesn’t get himself in trouble, basically like a big toddler. A temperamental loner, Hayley’s whole life revolves around her dad until she meets Finn, a boy she starts to really like.
As the line between her private life and her public life starts to disintegrate, Hayley wonders if she should let her concern for her father overcome her chances for a future. At first, this book took a while to get into for me. Hayley’s character was a little bit frustrating and I found myself wondering what Finn saw in her. She was short-tempered and mean to him and pretty much everybody else, and as I’ve said in previous reviews I AM not a fan of a lot of romance in books.
I wish there were more young adult books where romance took a back seat to platonic relationships. However, I began to warm up to Haylee (which is something I can’t say for Kate in Catalyst and Lia in Wintergirls) and the book was extremely fast-paced. It had the short ‘blink and you miss it’ kind of chapters I like and even though it was over 400 pages I finished it in two days. Despite my dislike for romance, Hayley’s fraught relationship with her dad was compelling enough to keep me turning pages.
I also liked the occasional chapters from the dad’s perspective that described events he went through in the military. Even though he wasn’t a likable character (in my opinion) these chapters helped me feel a little bit of empathy for him. The ending was a little rushed but I guess it’s hard to write a realistically ‘happy ending’ for a book with this kind of subject matter. These kinds of issues affect people for their entire lives and it’s hard to combine realism while offering hope for the future.
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