Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

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 town where he grew up so Hayley can go to a proper 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?

Laurie Halse Anderson is an amazing YA writer. She tackles tough subjects head on, flinging hardships, trials and snares at her characters. She's relentless and wry and relevant and revered.

The cover of her latest books is mesmerising (love it!), the title alluring and the premise promises some LHA conflict and heartbreak. I love the way Anderson writes -- her sentences have a certain cadence, her humour often sneaky, her protagonists not afraid to be unlikeable. I also love how her books are all different shades, and although I find her voice distinctive, she's unique in all her work.

In TIKoM, Anderson peels back layer after layer on one family's experience with the demons of post traumatic stress disorder. Hayley's life is so clouded by her father's psychological scars. It's brutal and unpredictable and violent and so completely harrowing. About 2/3's in, I was so consumed by the reality of Hayley and her father's predicament that I was convinced there would be no happy ending, no resolution for an illness so all-consuming, so powerful. The stakes are raised, the scene is bleak -- Anderson's portrayal is intense. She does an incredible job of portraying the after effects of war and yet, somehow, I felt removed from it, as if I was looking in -- I had hoped to feel Hayley's pain and emotion as if it were my own. That emotional connection as a reader is so subjective -- I am a little disappointed that even while I was absorbed in the story it never really punched me in the gut.

TIKoM is not all darkness -- Anderson is the master of wry humour and candid quips and the book is peppered with personality. Another bonus is Finn. He's a genuine good (without being too good) and funny and swoony boy -- he'll bring many smiles to readers faces and he has surprises in store for Hayley Kincaid. He chips through her icy indifference, masterful and cute and creative. Their banter was cute, sure, and when Hayley finally let him in, it was beautiful. The friendship/romance in this is a lifeline to Hayley -- and to readers (who need a sparkle of hope to contrast with the very real and frightening reality of Hayley's home life). 

While reading this I reflected on how Anderson never talks down to her audience - and she's articulate, compelling and honest (as well as offering some fun in the midst of the horror). I know this book will connect with many readers (TIKom will appeal to teens and adults alike). Recommended
Read an extract
The Impossible Knife of memory @ Text Publishing
The Impossible Knife of Memory @ goodreads

Laurie Halse Anderson is the author of several books for young adults including the New York Times bestselling novel Speak. She is the recipient of the prestigious ALAN Award (2008), which honours those who have made outstanding contributions to the field of adolescent literature. Laurie Halse Anderson lives in northern New York State with her husband.

Thanks to Text Publishing for my review copy


  1. Beautiful review. I loved this book - hope to see it on the Printz longlist.

    1. It deserves to be on the longlist! Glad you loved it too. LHA is a stand-out

  2. Your review is so spot on, this was wonderful and Laurie is such a brilliant author.

    p.s Finn <3

  3. Laurie Halse Anderson is an incredible writer, I love the punch-in-the-gut style and that's exactly what I felt with Wintergirls. I felt like I was in Lea's head ... quite traumatising,I read it in 2009 and remember it vividly. I really want to read this one but don't want to be disappointed. Sounds like it almost gets there ... but not quite.
    Great review Nomes.

  4. I wrote an absolutely lame two paragraph mini-review of this book that does a lousy job of conveying my feelings for this novel, though you nailed it. Like you, I was so caught up in the predicament Hayley found herself in with regards to her father and, frankly, the ending felt a little too neat for my liking. Still, I adore Anderson's prose and Finn was seriously a well-needed scoop of swoon. Lovely review, Nomes! :)


Thanks for the commenty love :)