Publisher/Year: Viking Juvenile- January 7, 2014
Genres: Contemporary YA
Source: For Review
Other Books From Author: Speak, Chains, Fever 1793, Wintergirls, Twisted, Prom, Catylst
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I received this from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!
Hayley hasn’t had the most normal of upbringings — she’s spent most of her time at the side of her dad, a veteran, as he drove his rig for work but also as a way to escape his experience in Iraq. She didn’t go to school but rather learned from her dad and learned things on her own. When her dad decides he wants to settle down in his old town and expects Hayley to go to high school, she’s cautiously optimistic that she’ll even be able to fit into a normal life and that this decision will help her dad’s PTSD. She finds out that she’s not so great with math and winds up in detention because teachers don’t appreciate her sass in correcting them when they are wrong. But she also meets Finn. And with Finn she has a chance at some semblance of normalcy as things with her dad become even shakier.
Huzzah! One of my 10 most anticipated 2014 releases delivered!! The Impossible Knife of Memory just solidifies, in my mind, why Laurie Halse Anderson is one of the best. I’ve read her YA and I’ve read her MG and I just really think she knows how to write a damn good story that always leaves an impression and always makes me FEEL something — not to mention that her writing is divine. The Impossible Knife of Memory was certainly no exception.
It’s definitely not a light and fun book as it tackles some difficult things but it managed to be balanced by Hayley’s humor and irreverent nature (seriously, girl is a firecracker!) and one HOLD-ON-TO-YOUR-BRITCHES-LADIES Finnegan Ramos. (I’ll get to Finn later but he’s tres PERFECT and worthy of swoons). It’s wounding to your heart in a subtle way that creeps up on you and then suddenly has you in a full-on headlock but also manages to soothe you with its bits of hope. As you learn about Hayley’s offbeat upbringing and see her dad struggling with his PTSD and drinking it just grips you even harder and definitely DOES NOT release you until the very end — oh GOD those last couple chapters killed me. You feel for Hayley at how she has to take care of him and how she feels so helpless because she knows he’s getting worse — you can just FEEL the burden of all this but also the love and concern and protectiveness.
I love books that have a focus on a a character’s relationship with their parent and typically the ones I point out are strong but this is one of those stories that paints such a real and stirring dynamic that is actually one of my favorites ever despite how hard it is to read sometimes because of the fractured nature of it. You want to shake Hayley’s dad so much because of everything going on but you know he’s suffering from PTSD and needs help. Most of my emotions from this relationship came from watching Hayley interact with her dad and take care of him. We get these glimpse of her dad’s memories on random pages but honestly I didn’t feel like it lent much to my view of him like some of interactions and memories did. They just kind of left me feeling I could have done without them. Watching the love Hayley has for her dad and realizing that could not be enough to save him PAINED me.
Finn. I don’t really do the whole “book boyfriend” thing but he is the boyfriend I probably actually would have HAD in high school and I’m staking my claim on him now. He’s got that deliciously nerdy but totally cute thing going on, he’s funny and he’s so, so charming and genuinely sweet and caring. I love how he’s able to break Hayley’s walls down in the most charming of ways despite the fight she puts up being typical Hayley. One of my favorite scenes involves a non-date. Finn and Hayley’s relationship is one that I won’t soon forget because they were both two incredible fleshed out characters and from their very first interactions there was just this energy that I loved. It was playful and wonderful.
The way Laurie Halse Anderson delivers this story is just signature Laurie and it hits all the right notes. There’s a reason she’s one of the Queens of YA and I loved The Impossible Knife of Memory so much! It was powerful and stirring as Hayley settles into a huge transition living in one place with her father as he starts to come more undone because of his PTSD. Quiet, explosive and all around a spectacularly written novel. Also, FINNEGAN, YOU HAVE MY HEART. If you are a lover of realistic fiction that has just incredible depth, get this on thy list!
Let’s Talk: Have you read this one?? Heard of it? If you read it, what did you think? Was Finn not the cutest ever? Did you bawl at that PART ( you know which one!!) like I did?? I honestly did not know what was going to happen at that point. How does this rank if you’ve read other LHA novels?