Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Viking Juvenile (Penguin)
Pub. Date: January 7, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 12+
More by this author: Speak, Wintergirls, Catalyst, Prom, Twisted
Things haven’t been easy for Hayley Kincaid since her father’s return from Iraq. Hayley’s dad is a trucker and, for the past 5 years, she’s traveled with him from state to state, never staying long in one place. Plagued by addiction and the memories of his time at war, Hayley’s dad is always trying to stay one step ahead of his demons. When Hayley’s dad decides to return to his hometown so Hayley can attend school and maybe attempt to have a somewhat normal teenage experience, Hayley thinks her father will finally be able to conquer the memories that constantly threaten to drown him. Hayley and her father finally have a chance to start over – to put down roots – but her father’s addictions and PTSD aren’t easily battled and Hayley might have to reach out for help or be pulled under too. Told with an intensity and candor that bonds the reader to Hayley and her father, THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY is an unforgettable story about the psychological aftermath of war and the strength of family and love.
The novel is primarily from Hayley’s point-of-view, though there are small sections from her father, Andy’s, POV as well. These passages from Andy are what ultimately allow the reader to connect with him. I think it’d be easy to minimize or struggle to understand what Andy is going through and how little control he has without these passages, but, their presence, allowed me to forgive Andy’s more manic moments. Instead of feeling angry, I, instead, felt hopeful that he would get the help he needed to overcome his demons.
Hayley is remarkably resilient and strong. She wants so badly to be able to protect her father from his experiences and to be able to fix things on her own, but realizing that addiction isn’t something you can battle for someone or on your own is a lesson she must learn through growth… and some trial and error.
In the midst of all darkness and struggle in Hayley’s life, she’s also falling in love for the first time. This aspect of the novel might seem out of place, but Anderson’s skill and deft hand reminds readers that in darkness their is hope… and love. The Hayley’s romance is incredibly tender and a perfect foil to her home life.
As expected, Anderson doesn’t disappoint. A great book to start off 2014.