Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cuts to the Core: The Impossible Knife of Memory

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Viking Juvenille, 2014

*'Original Unedited Manuscript' provided by the publisher at ALA 2013 - Thank You!!*

For the last five years, Hayley has been traveling the country with her dad, Andy, a former soldier who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. They'd never settle in any one place long as he was chased by his demons and plagued by the devil they never talked about: PTSD. But now they are "home," in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school and have a "normal" life. It seems almost possible sometimes as she makes a few friends and even starts a relationship with Finn, a smart and amazing guy who clearly likes her, but has secrets of his own. Andy's war wounds are still wide open, though, as much as he'd like to ignore them. Can this family find peace, or will memories, pain, drugs and PTSD finally claim him?

Anderson has an absolute gift for capturing an authentic teenage voice that's relatable and totally new. Hayley is a girl I don't personally have a ton in common with on the surface, but so many parts of her hit home. She is smart, smart-mouthed, raw, honest, and at the same time can make dumb decisions, say the absolute wrong thing, and be full of total bull. She loves her father and wants to protect him from something she sees but can never fully understand, but that doesn't mean she always likes him. She likes Finn more than she'd like to admit because the people she cares about in her life never seem to stick around or care all that much in return.

Supporting characters are just as multi-dimensional, being new and probably reminding readers of someone they already know. As a reader, I came to care about Andy deeply in the way that Hayley does. Best friend Gracie's life has its own unfortunate roller coaster happening which was never distracting, but instead an authentic representation of how while Hayley's problems are awful, they aren't the only ones. Hayley's bias against Trish, a woman from her past, was obvious to me, but it made sense given the walls Hayley has had to build to protect herself, the result of not being able to trust the people she should have always been able to count on.

Now one thing that I actually really liked about this book that I'm not sure is the same in the final edition is the ending. I've heard rumors that it has been changed since I got this manuscript back in June, so I am anxious to see if that is in fact the case. As for what I read, I applaud that not every single question is answered by the time I reached the last page because in life things are never that simple, so why should they be in a book like this one.

LHA and me at ALA 2013
Favorite Moment of the Conference
Speak is a book that changed my life in more ways than I can ever thank Laurie Halse Anderson for, though I tried when I met her at ALA. (She hugged me three times and signed my copy from when I was 13. It was amazing, of course, because so is she). I have no doubt that The Impossible Knife of Memory can be that book for teens today. Anderson has hit it out of the park with this story about the difference between forgetting and trying not to remember. If you're a fan of books that give an honest look at the world we live in, then this is a must-read for you.

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