The Impossible Knife of Memory

The Impossible Knife of Memory

4.3 30
by Laurie Halse Anderson
     
 

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For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid 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 the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful

Overview

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid 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 the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend 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? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Jo Knowles
Anderson's portrayal of families broken by war, death, divorce and addiction is stark and honest…Despite the heavy subject matter, Anderson's signature wry observations offer just enough comic relief…This book has a lot going on, no doubt. But at its heart is a tough yet fragile girl who wants what we all want: love, friendship and stability. Instead, she lives in a world in which the foundation beneath her feet is constantly shifting, and the relentless challenge to keep balance has worn her out…Anderson's novels (and others often labeled "too dark") speak for the still-silent among us, and force all of us to acknowledge the real and painful truths that are too dangerous to ignore.
Publishers Weekly
★ 10/21/2013
As in Speak, Anderson provides a riveting study of a psychologically scarred teenager, peeling back layers of internal defenses to reveal a girl’s deepest wounds. Her heroine, 17-year-old Hayley, is no stranger to loss. Her mother died when she was small, and she was later abandoned by her father’s alcoholic girlfriend. Now the only family Hayley has left is her father, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, whose horrific flashbacks have brought chaos into their lives. After traveling the country in a “dented eighteen-wheeler,” the two of them have settled down in her father’s hometown. Hayley feels like an outsider at a high school populated by “zombies,” and, at home, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to pretend that her father is getting better. Then Hayley is drawn to Finn, a boy who seemingly likes her for who she is. Hayley’s anxiety about her father’s unpredictable behavior reverberates throughout the novel, overshadowing and distorting her memories of better times. It’s a tough, absorbing story of the effects of combat on soldiers and the people who love them. Ages 12–up. Agent: Amy Berkower, Writers House. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY:

- New York Times bestseller
- 2014 National Book Award longlist
- A Publishers Weekly Best Young Adult Book of 2014
- A School Library Journal Best Young Adult Book of 2014
- YALSA 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults

"Anderson's novels . . . speak for the still-silent among us, and force all of us to acknowledge the real and painful truths that are too dangerous to ignore." —New York Times

“The Impossible Knife of Memory isn’t always an easy read-Anderson’s gritty, authentic look at PTSD is by turns painful and heartbreaking-but it’s an important one." —Entertainment Weekly

“Andy comes home from the war in Iraq honored for his service, and haunted by it.  The war still goes on inside of him and threatens to make Hayley another causality. Laurie Halse Anderson is one of the best known writers of literature for young adults and children in the world. ” —Scott Simon, NPR Weekend Edition

“Laurie Halse Anderson has been lauded and awarded for her ability to channel the teenage mind (and heart) dealing with tough issues. In The Impossible Knife of Memory, she takes on PTSD through the story of a girl coping with her troubled veteran dad.” —Family Circle

"At turns heartbreaking, at turns funny, the narrative in this book is so spot on I wanted to give Hayley my phone number so she would have a friend in times of crisis.  Seriouslydoes ANYONE write troubled teen characters with the realism, grace, and soul of Laurie Halse Anderson?" Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of The Storyteller and Between the Lines
 
“Laurie Halse Anderson serves the families of veterans with the same honor, dignity, and respect that the veterans, who serve us, deserve. With her trademark hope, humor, and heart-breaking realism, Laurie Halse Anderson has given us a roadmap to heal. She is a treasure.”Stephen Chobsky, New York Times bestselling author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

• "As in Speak, Anderson provides a riveting study of a psychologically scarred teenager . . . absorbing" —Publishers Weeklystarred review

• "Compelling, powerful, and timely . . . This is challenging material, but in Anderson's skilled hands, readers will find a light shining on the shadowy reality of living with someone who has lived through war" —Booklist, starred review

• "The book offers an eloquent portrait of the effects of both war and family legacies, and many readers will find reflections of their own struggle to keep family connections while obtaining their independence.” —BCCB, starred review

• "With powerful themes of loyalty and forgiveness, this tightly woven story is a forthright examination of the realities of war and its aftermath on soldiers and their families. One of Anderson’s strongest and most relevant works to date.” —School Library Journal, starred review

• "It is Anderson at her absolute best, providing significant and touching realistic fiction." —VOYA, starred review

• "A serious subject is balanced by humorous cultural commentary, making this an intelligent, thought-provoking, and entertaining read." —LMC, starred review

VOYA, February 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 6) - Blake Norby
Hayley Kincaid and her father have been traveling as he looks for a place he can settle after returning from Iraq. As they try to settle down in his hometown, Hayley attempts to balance a normal teenage life including school, friends, and a new boyfriend with constantly worrying about worst-case scenarios she and her dad could face. She is always worried about her father doing drugs and keeping company with drug dealers, but she is more worried about what her father will do to himself when left on his own to deal with his depression. As Hayley comes to terms with her own losses, including her mother and grandmother, she struggles to help her dad face his demons so they can move on together. An incredibly relevant story for today’s teens, Anderson’s novel supplies another poignant and compelling realistic fiction selection for young adults. The conflicts Hayley has with her dad are not played up for dramatic effect, and Hayley’s own issues are not overly dramatized. Anderson has brilliantly made all of the characters realistically flawed, suffering through their own dysfunctional families and providing imperfect foils for Hayley and perspective for the issues being presented. This is a must-have for any library serving teens. It is Anderson at her absolute best, providing significant and touching realistic fiction. Reviewer: Blake Norby; Ages 15 to 18.
School Library Journal
★ 01/01/2014
Gr 9 Up—Hayley is the daughter of a veteran, and his PTSD colors every aspect of their lives. After serving his country, Andy is trying to rebuild some stability for himself and his daughter, but each day is a challenge for them both. Hayley lives with the constant threat of her father harming himself or others while also dealing with feelings of abandonment after essentially losing her parental figures. She copes through snark and skepticism but begins to let her guard down when her charming, easygoing classmate, Finn, gives her a much-needed taste of normal teenage life. A relationship with Finn opens the door to the possibility of trusting again, but it's not easy. Through Hayley's tenuous search for balance, Anderson explores the complicated nature of perception and memory, and how individuals manage to carry on after experiencing the worst. Readers will be thoroughly invested in this book's nuanced cast of characters and their struggles. Hayley's relatable first-person narration is interspersed with flashbacks of Andy's brutal war experiences, providing a visceral look at his inner demons. The endearing Finn and Hayley's bubbly best friend, Gracie, add levity to the narrative, even as they, too, grapple with their own problems. With powerful themes of loyalty and forgiveness, this tightly woven story is a forthright examination of the realities of war and its aftermath on soldiers and their families. One of Anderson's strongest and most relevant works to date.—Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-20
A family struggles to hold itself together in the wake of war. Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, a decorated veteran, have returned to their small upstate New York hometown after years of unschooling and long-haul trucking. Ostensibly, they're back so Hayley can have a typical senior year of high school, but it's clear that Andy's untreated PTSD has made it impossible for him to make a living as a trucker. Both Kincains are bright, sarcastic loners plagued by agonizing memories that won't quite stay repressed, despite their best efforts, and that punctuate the narrative in counterpoint: Andy's experiences during his four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan appear fully formed, while Hayley's childhood recollections are more fragmented and less reliable than they at first seem. As Andy's mental and physical health deteriorate, Hayley is forced deeper into the role of caretaker. It's a part she's been playing so well for so long she doesn't even realize how much she resents the unfairness of it all until her sweet, bantering boyfriend, Finn, points it out. Anderson sensitively addresses the many problems--physical recovery, grief and survivor's guilt, chemical dependency, panic attacks and suicidal tendencies--that veterans can face when trying to reintegrate. This is less a bravura performance than a solid one, but Hayley's strong, wryly vulnerable voice carries the narrative toward a resolutely imperfect, hopeful conclusion. A characteristically honest and deeply felt exploration of the lingering scars of war. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670012091
Publisher:
Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
01/07/2014
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
140,034
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 8.44(h) x 1.25(d)
Lexile:
HL720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***

Copyright © 2014  by  Laurie Halse Anderson

-28-

The crowd in the stadium roared so loudly I couldn’t hear what the mom manning the ticket booth said.

“Why?” I asked again.

She glared and waited a beat for the noise to die down. “Everybody pays to get into the game. No exceptions.”

“But I’m the press,” I whined. “On assignment.”

“Students get a dollar discount.” She put her hand out. “Four dollars or don’t go in.”

I paid her. Finn now owed me nineteen bucks.

The bleachers were a wall of people dressed in Belmont yellow. For one second, it felt like they were all staring at me, that they all knew I came to the football game alone and didn’t know where to sit, but then a whistle blew and the football teams on the field behind me crashed into each other and the crowd cheered and jumped up and down. I was invisible to them.

I turned my back to the stands. On the other side of the field sat the enemy, the Richardson Ravens, dressed in black and silver. Beyond the goalposts at the far end of the field rose a gentle hill that was dotted with people sitting on blankets, little kids zooming around them, cheerfully ignoring the sad excuse for a football game.

The referee blew his whistle and the two lines of players crashed into each other again, grunting and shouting. I couldn’t see what happened to the ball, but the Richardson side of the field erupted in cheers.

I texted Gracie:

hey

After a long pause, she wrote back:

at movie ttyl?

I sent a simple smiley face, because my phone did not have a smiley face that was wrapping her hands around her own throat and beating her head against a wall.

The two teams ran to their huddles to plot out their next bit of brilliant strategy. They ended the huddle and ran back to line up, each face inches away from the scowling face of the enemy, feet pawing at the ground like impatient horses. The quarterback grunted, the lines crashed together, and they all fell down again. Everyone in Belmont yellow screamed and whistled.

Should I be writing this down? I looked up at the stands. Wouldn’t anyone who cared about this game be here? Why would they want to read about it? Answer: they wouldn’t. My earlier plan to get the stats and eavesdrop for quotes first period Monday was still viable and even more attractive than it had been on the bus. I just needed someplace to go that was not my house. It was only a quarter to eight. I could probably make it to the mall before nine.

what movie

I texted Gracie.

She didn’t answer, which meant she was with Topher, which meant any hope I had of crashing her Friday night plans had just evaporated. How lame would it be for me to go to Gracie’s house and ask her mom if she wanted to hang out? Mrs. Rappaport was a big fan of home makeover shows. Last time I was at her house, she’d been talking about redesigning her kitchen. Maybe we could watch a few episodes about countertops.

I shuddered. I’d be better off spending the evening chasing rats out of Dumpsters.

The clock clicked down the last few seconds to halftime, the refs blew their whistles, and people raced for the bathrooms and the food stand.

“This is ridiculous,” I muttered as I pressed against the fence that separated the spectators from the field. As soon as the herd moved past, I followed, intending to head for the parking lot, unchain my bike, and ride. Not home, not for a few hours. Just ride in the dark and hope that Topher and Gracie would have a huge fight and she’d call in tears and ask me to spend the night and mention that they had a lot of ice cream in the freezer.

“Great game, huh?”

I turned around, ready to spew venom about parents who were happy to pay taxes for football coaches but would be good-God-damned if they were going to waste their money on librarians or gym teachers.

“I was certain we’d be down thirty points by now,” Finn said.

In his left hand, he was holding a flimsy cardboard box loaded with cheeseburgers, greasy fries, and two soda cups. In his right, he held a third cup that was filled with marigolds that looked like they’d been yanked out of somebody’s backyard.

“What’d you think of that first-down denial?” he asked. “Great way to end the half, right?”

“What happened to your date?” I asked.

“She’s here,” he said.

 “You brought your big date to this football game? You could have written the article yourself.”

“No, I couldn’t,” he said. “What girl wants to be ignored on a date? Hold this for me.”

He shoved the box that held the food and drink at me, pulled his buzzing phone out of his pocket, glanced at it, and typed a reply. Behind us, the marching band took their position on the field, drummers beating a solemn cadence.

“Okay.” Finn put his phone away. “Want to meet her?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” I followed him through the crowd. “Is she a zombie?” I asked. “I bet she’s wearing Belmont yellow. Oh, God, Finn—is she a cheerleader?”

“Definitely not a zombie or a cheerleader or a zombie cheerleader. I’m just getting to know her. Actually, it’s sort of a blind date.”

“That’s gross,” I said. “Old people go on blind dates when they get divorced and don’t know what else to do. You’re only, what? Sixteen?”

“Almost eighteen,” he corrected.

“And you already need other people to fix you up?” I laughed.

“This way.” He took the box from me and headed for the exit.

“Did you lock her in your trunk?”

“I’m meeting her up on the hill. I thought it would be more romantic than cement bleachers.”

The marching band launched into “Louie, Louie,” saving him from hearing my answer.

-29-

I followed him past the giggling children rolling down the hills like sausages. Past their tired parents sitting on stained comforters with their arms around each other. Past people critiquing the performance of the band and the flag twirlers. We walked all the way to the top of the hill and into the shadows beyond the reach of the stadium lights.

“She dumped you,” I said.

“Not yet.” He put the box of food and soda at the edge of a plaid blanket.

“Maybe she had to pee,” I said. “What’s her name again?”

“Her name is Hayley.” He straightened up and handed me the cup of marigolds. “Hello, Miss Blue.”

-30-

“Me,” I said.

“You,” he confirmed.

The marching band started playing the theme from the latest Batman movie.

“Why didn’t you just ask me?”

“I was afraid you’d say no.”

“What if I say no right now?”

“Do you want to?”

I watched the band move in and out of their formations. “I haven’t decided yet.”

“You could sit and eat while you’re thinking about it,” he suggested.

We sat on the blanket, the cheeseburgers, fries, and flowers a border between us, watching the little kids and the band until halftime was over. It was marginally less awkward when the game started again, if only because there was so much to mock. Finally, the ref blew his whistle and it was official. The Belmont Machinists had lost their sixth game of the season and I had no idea what would happen next. I didn’t know what I wanted to happen next. The stadium slowly emptied; the families on the hill gathered their kids and shepherded them toward the parking lot, and soon we were the only ones left.

“Okay, here’s the tricky part,” Finn said. “The security guard is going to walk by to see if anyone is up here partying. I’m pretty sure we’re far enough away that he won’t be able to see us, but we should lie down for ten minutes or so, to be safe.”

“That is the lamest attempt ever to get a girl on her back,” I said.

“I’m serious. Look.” Finn pointed to two security guards at the far end of the football field. “I’m not going to try anything. I swear. I’ll move over here so you’re comfortable.”

He scuttled about four yards away and lay on the grass. “How’s this?” he whispered loudly.

I lay down on the blanket carefully, keeping my head turned and my eyes open so I could watch him. “If you touch me, I’ll cram your nose into your brain with the heel of my hand.”

“Shh,” he said.

The lights in the stadium started to click off, one at a time, until darkness took over the field.

“A couple minutes more,” Finn whispered, his voice reassuringly far away.

The last of the cars pulled out of the parking lot, tires squealing. The chatter of the security guard’s radio moved along the hill below us like a stray breeze. As it faded, I sat up and watched his flashlight bob into the distance. A few minutes later, the guard reached his car and slowly drove away, tires crunching over the gravel.

“Close your eyes.” Finn’s voice startled me. “Count to twenty.”

“After I shove your nose into your brain, I will break your fingers and disable your kneecaps,” I warned.

“I’ll stay here,” he promised. “I’ll keep talking so you know I haven’t moved. Five. Six. Seven. Talking, talking, talking, okay? Eyes closed? You’re lying down? I’m still talking and I am looking for something to talk about but it’s tough because this is a bizarre situation. Fifteen. Sixteen. Somehow I failed to anticipate that your response to my well-thought-out date would be to threaten me with violence. I should have been prepared for that. The next time I’m in a meeting with MI5—”

“Can I open my eyes yet?” I asked.

“Twenty,” he replied. “Look straight up.”

The night sky stretched on forever above me, the stars flung like glass beads and pearls on a black velvet cloak.

“Wow,” I whispered.

“Yeah,” he said. “I had to pull a lot of strings to get the weather to cooperate, but it all worked out in the end. Can I sit on the blanket now?”

“Not yet.” I found the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt with no problem, but didn’t know the names of anything else. Had there always been this many stars in the sky?

“I won’t try anything,” Finn continued. “Unless you want me to. Of course, if you wanted to try anything, I’d be a very willing participant. Do you want to try anything?”

“I haven’t decided.”

“Did I mention that the grass I’m lying on is soaked with dew?” he asked.

“I haven’t even decided if this is officially a date.”

“What would you call it?”

“An anti-date.”

“I brought you flowers.”

“I like them. It’s still an anti-date.” I paused. “But I don’t want you to blame me if you get sick. You can come back if you want.”

“You promise not to maim me?”

“I promise to give fair warning before I maim you.”

I watched out of the corner of my eye as Finn’s shape stood, walked over, and lay down two inches away from me. I could feel the heat radiating off his skin. He smelled of wet grass and sweat and soap. No body spray.

“Nights like this,” he said quietly, “I could look at the sky forever.”

I expected him to keep talking, to ramble on about the stars or his adventures as an astronaut or the time he was abducted by aliens (which I might have believed), but he just lay there, staring at the corner of the Milky Way that was smeared right above us. The layers of noise—cars on the road, distant airplanes, the farewells of crickets, the flutter of bat wings—all faded until I could hear only the sound of my heart beating in my ears, and the slow, steady rhythm of Finn’s breath.

Somehow my hand found its way to his. Our fingers entwined. He squeezed once and sighed.

I grinned, grateful for the dark.

We left about an hour later so that Finn could drive me home and get back to his house before curfew. Neither one of us had much to say. We didn’t talk in the car, either, but that was easier because he turned on the radio. It felt like the time under the stars had delivered us to a new country that we didn’t have the language for yet, but I didn’t know what it felt like for him because I didn’t have the guts to ask.

I finally spoke up just before he turned into my driveway.

“No,” I said. “Pull up by those bushes.”

“You’re having a party without me?” he asked.

“An army buddy of my dad’s is here with a bunch of guys on leave. They’re headed up to the Adirondacks tomorrow.”

I unbuckled my seat belt and opened my door the instant he shut the engine off because I didn’t know what I wanted to happen in the front seat. Well, I kind of knew, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure, and it seemed like the safest course of action was to get my bike out of the backseat as soon as possible. The handlebars got caught on the coat hook above the back door, but Finn reached in and unhooked them.

“Thanks.” I leaned on the handlebars. “That was a . . . I had a good time.”

He leaned against his car. “Can we call it a date yet?”

“No.”

“Can we call it a pretty good anti-date?”

I chuckled. “Yeah.”

He tossed his keys up and down. “I would like to point out, for the record, that my pants remained zipped and my belt buckled for the entire evening.”

“Smart move on your part.” I hesitated, because I wanted to kiss him and I was pretty sure he wanted to kiss me, too, but the bike was in front of me, and Finn was several steps away and then two soldiers came around the side of the house and started rummaging in the back of one of the trucks.

“I better go,” I said.

“Are you going to be okay?” he asked. “I mean, with all those guys around and everything?”

“You’re the one who should be worried. You just took out the captain’s daughter without his permission.”

-31-

Dad was sitting by the bonfire in the backyard with Roy and a bunch of the others. The conversation died when I stepped into the circle of light.

“Didn’t mean to interrupt,” I said. “Just wanted to tell you I’m home.”

“How was the game?” Roy asked.

“We lost,” I said. “But the stars were nice.”

“Sleep tight, princess.” Dad’s face was half in shadow, angular and old-looking. I wanted to sit on the ground next to him and lean against his knee and have him smooth my hair back and tell me that everything was going to be all right, but the awful thing was, I wasn’t sure it could be. He was sober, still drinking soda, surrounded by guys who understood everything he’d been through, but his good mood of the afternoon had vanished. He looked lost again, haunted.

One of the younger soldiers got up and offered me a chair, but I muttered a quick g’night, and hurried inside.

Michael was parked in front of the television gaming with a couple of the privates, dribbling chew-stained spit into a paper cup. I went straight to my room without saying a word. Didn’t bother with a shower or brushing my teeth. I locked my bedroom door, changed into my pj’s, and crawled into bed with a book and my phone.

Finn texted just as I got comfortable:

am home

you ok?

yep

I texted back.

I waited, staring at the screen. Should I say anything else? Were we supposed to text all night long?

ttyt?

he asked.

sure

I hesitated, then held my breath and typed quickly:

flowers were sweet

stars spectacular

thx

He didn’t reply and he didn’t reply and he didn’t reply. I smacked myself in the forehead. “Anti-date,” what was that supposed to mean? He thinks I’m a nutcase now, a total crazy cakes, I said I was going to shove his nose into his brain, who says crap like that? and then my phone lit up again.

nxt to you

i didnt notice any stars

night

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY:

- New York Times bestseller
- 2014 National Book Award longlist
- A Publishers Weekly Best Young Adult Book of 2014
- A School Library Journal Best Young Adult Book of 2014

"Anderson's novels . . . speak for the still-silent among us, and force all of us to acknowledge the real and painful truths that are too dangerous to ignore." —New York Times

“The Impossible Knife of Memory isn’t always an easy read-Anderson’s gritty, authentic look at PTSD is by turns painful and heartbreaking-but it’s an important one." —Entertainment Weekly

“Andy comes home from the war in Iraq honored for his service, and haunted by it.  The war still goes on inside of him and threatens to make Hayley another causality. Laurie Halse Anderson is one of the best known writers of literature for young adults and children in the world. ” —Scott Simon, NPR Weekend Edition

“Laurie Halse Anderson has been lauded and awarded for her ability to channel the teenage mind (and heart) dealing with tough issues. In The Impossible Knife of Memory, she takes on PTSD through the story of a girl coping with her troubled veteran dad.” —Family Circle

"At turns heartbreaking, at turns funny, the narrative in this book is so spot on I wanted to give Hayley my phone number so she would have a friend in times of crisis.  Seriouslydoes ANYONE write troubled teen characters with the realism, grace, and soul of Laurie Halse Anderson?" Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of The Storyteller and Between the Lines
 
“Laurie Halse Anderson serves the families of veterans with the same honor, dignity, and respect that the veterans, who serve us, deserve. With her trademark hope, humor, and heart-breaking realism, Laurie Halse Anderson has given us a roadmap to heal. She is a treasure.”Stephen Chobsky, New York Times bestselling author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

• "As in Speak, Anderson provides a riveting study of a psychologically scarred teenager . . . absorbing" —Publishers Weeklystarred review

• "Compelling, powerful, and timely . . . This is challenging material, but in Anderson's skilled hands, readers will find a light shining on the shadowy reality of living with someone who has lived through war" —Booklist, starred review

• "The book offers an eloquent portrait of the effects of both war and family legacies, and many readers will find reflections of their own struggle to keep family connections while obtaining their independence.” —BCCB, starred review

• "With powerful themes of loyalty and forgiveness, this tightly woven story is a forthright examination of the realities of war and its aftermath on soldiers and their families. One of Anderson’s strongest and most relevant works to date.” —School Library Journal, starred review

• "It is Anderson at her absolute best, providing significant and touching realistic fiction." —VOYA, starred review

• "A serious subject is balanced by humorous cultural commentary, making this an intelligent, thought-provoking, and entertaining read." —LMC, starred review

Meet the Author

Laurie Halse Anderson has received both the Margaret Edwards Award and the ALAN Award for her contributions to young adult literature. She has also been honored by the National Coalition Against Censorship in recognition of her fight to combat the censoring of literature. She is the author of the groundbreaking National Book Award finalist and Printz Honor Book Speak. She is also author of the critically acclaimed YA books Prom, Twitsted, Catalyst, Wintergirls, and The Impossible Knife of Memory. She has also authored a number of middle grade titles including The Vet Volunteers series, and the historical fiction Seeds of America Trilogy, which includes Forge, ALA Best Book for Young Adults Fever 1793, and the National Book Award finalist and Scott O’Dell Award-winner Chains. She and her husband live in northern New York State. Follow Laurie on Twitter @halseanderson and visit her at madwomanintheforest.com.

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The Impossible Knife of Memory 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
loonyluna1 More than 1 year ago
I have never been so hooked on a book before in my life. It's hard to put into words how I feel about it because it's just that good. Laurie Halse Anderson has a way with words and a way with capturing the audience. I found that it was so easy to relate to these characters, that they almost seemed like real people. You almost have to stop for a minute and remind yourself they're fictional.  The amount of romance in this book was perfect. It's not so over the top that someone who doesn't like romance novels would hate it (I'm not a fan of romance novels and I obviously loved this book). Yet there's enough of it for fans of romance to love it too. As someone who suffers from PTSD, I found that Laurie accurately conveyed what it's like with her words and through the main character. The effects of PTSD are so accurately portrayed here that if you don't suffer from it, you almost don't even have to wonder what it's like. Overall this was an extremely good read. Despite its length, I read it all in one sitting! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow this was a great book. I didn't buy it on my nook, but I read it somewhere else. I highly reccomend it.
ABookVacation More than 1 year ago
This is a very well written novel by the ever talented Laurie Halse-Anderson. Based on experiences from her own life, Halse-Anderson once again pens a poignant coming of age story ripe with love, loss, and self-exploration. Finally stationary long enough to attend a real high school, Hayley Kincaid hardly has time to focus on the trivial subjects set before her knowing her life at home could disintegrate at any time. Andy, her father, suffers immensely from PTSD brought on by his time in the War--having both good days and bad--causing Hayley to mold her life around his. It is a heartbreaking tale of triumph and misery, one that is beautifully told. Although I tad bit lengthy, this is an amazing look into the life of PTSD. It shows the difficulties that many suffer from once home from war, and it shows the havoc these difficulties can have on families, especially children. Hayley is an exceptionally strong female lead, held up by those who love her and her belief that her father may get better--though in her heart she knows that a good day is becoming more rare with each day that passes. Caught between shielding her father and taking care of herself, Hayley struggles, taking on burdens no child should have to deal with. Closed off and afraid to open up, she slowly begins to trust others, seeking the help needed in order to provide healing. It's a touching story that all should read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book does a great job of hitting on PTSD, troubled relationships and the effects that war has on teens raised in the current environment. It makes you want to reach out to those with depression and mental illness.
Shawscribbles More than 1 year ago
I have been a Laurie Halse Anderson fan for years – ever since I used Speak in my 4th year Children’s Literature course at SFU. But it has been a number of years now since I’ve picked up one of her books, so I was curious to see if she has maintained her exceptional standards. I was not disappointed. As per usual, Halse Anderson wove a tale that is brutally honest and real but that’s real strength lies in the character development. Hayley Kincaid is a girl who is dealing with issues that no teenager should have to deal with (but that far too many do). Her struggles to balance her life, her studies and her father’s well being are beautiful written. Too often I put down a realistic novel like this one with a feeling of disappointment and depression but that wasn’t the case this time. Instead I felt closure and a sense of hope when finishing the novel. Halse Anderson doesn’t sugarcoat the story and doesn’t ruin the reality of her novel with a fairytale ending and yet she manages to close on a hopeful note. Great read! You should check it out!
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Hayley and her father Andy have been on the road for the past five years. Sometimes riding in Andy's rig. Sometimes laying low while Andy tries to hold down a job and Hayley does her version of homeschooling. But then everything stopped and Hayley has been moved back into a life she doesn't want in a childhood home she refuses to remember. Being home gives Hayley a chance at a normal life with friends and maybe even a boyfriend. Unfortunately the more the Hayley lets down her guard and allows herself to imagine a future, instead of living day-to-day, the more obvious it is that Andy is still haunted by memories of all the demons and friends he left behind after his last tour over seas. With monstrous memories looming for both of them, Hayley begins to wonder if having a normal life is something she and her father are even capable of in The Impossible Knife of Memory (2014) by Laurie Halse Anderson. Hayley is an unreliable who lies both to the reader and herself as pieces of her past unfold in memories that cut like knives and unwanted visitors from her past. Slowly, with flashback-like memories from both Hayley and her father, the story of how they returned home unfolds. At the same time, Anderson manages to ground this book in the present with a fledgling romance and a grocery list of other problems that, in the hands of a less skilled writer, would feel trite as the perfect facades of Hayley's friends also fall apart. The Impossible Knife of Memory is an interesting book. But it's also an incredibly difficult read at times. My mother was very sick last year and it took a toll on both of us--so much so that, as I read this book, I saw much more of myself in Hayley than I would have liked. That said, Anderson's writing is excellent and returns here to the quality found in Speak with the same surprises and another fresh, surprising narrator. Although Andy is deeply troubled it was also nice to see a parental figure in a book with genuine affection for his daughter and interest in her well-being--even if it is mostly mired in the hardships that come with dealing with his own psychological traumas. On the outset The Impossible Knife of Memory sounds like an issue book with its focus on Hayley's father's PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Anderson, however, brings her usual skill to this topic offering a well-rounded story that encompasses more than this one timely topic. I probably won't re-read this book because of the personal slant that made it hard to read. I am actually painfully certain I don't even want a copy in the house. That said, The Impossible Knife of Memory is an important book that is never heavy-handed or obnoxious. Instead Anderson offers an honest, unflinching portrayal of one family's difficulties with PTSD as well as the promise of not just a way through but also even a chance at a happy ending. Possible Pairings: The Blue Girl by Charles De Lint, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, Paper Towns by John Green, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
majibookshelf More than 1 year ago
Laurie Halse Anderson has done it again. This woman just never fails to leave me speechless after finishing a book that she has written. Wintergirls being one of my favorite books I have read, The Impossible Knife of Memory is also making its way to my favorites list. It was interesting and different, for me at least, to see the main protagonist  actually be a typical teenager. Other than this book, I have only read Speak and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, both in which the characters voice is very... quiet? I'm not sure that's the right word, but they've never been full of sarcasm and all. Anyways, Hayley is the main protagonist in this book. Hayley has been moving from place to place with her father, and never settling in one place. When her father decides he wants to live back in his hometown, so that Hayley can attend school and have a normal life, things start to change. I obviously don't want to give out too much information, but let me tell you, this book will give you LOTS of feels! Hayley was such a wonderful character! She didn't really stand out to me at first, but as I got to know her better, I really started to love her! She is struggling with so much, and I can't even believe that she is able to handle all of that and is able to smile later on. Never having attended school before, it is a struggle for her. I liked seeing her friends, and Finn was a great addition to the book. It's a first to see a relationship in a Laurie Halse Anderson book for me, and I really enjoyed it. The dad! OH MY GOD! Sometimes, I literally felt like killing the dad. Hayley's dad is struggling with nightmares, and his time at war has had a major impact in him. It was heartbreaking to see how much it had affected him, and it was tougher to see Hayley deal with it. I have to admit, it got kind of boring in the middle. I still kept on reading though because it had a promising beginning. I am SO thankful that it ended with a BANG! The last hundred pages or so were just SO intense I could NOT put it down! I spend the last thirty minutes of New Year's Eve reading it and crying my eyes out! Then I knew, this had to be an all time favorite. Those last hundred pages just changed everything, and my love for the book just grew more and more. I definitely would recommend this book to all realistic fiction/contemporary readers! Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson, fear no more, because this will NOT be a disappointment!
Anonymous 5 months ago
I LOVED IT, I'm in 7th grade and I read this book in like two sittings and yeah I loved the plot line and the, story in generally guys okay I don't even no what to say besides you should get it great standalone
Anonymous 9 months ago
i wasted my money and time over this book. I wish i could buy some other book with the money i wasted for this one. There is no story in the book... it will on waste your money and your time. It was my first time to read any book of this author and i got only disappointment
anythingnovel More than 1 year ago
The Impossible Knife of Memory is a really powerful story with a gritty realism that keeps it grounded. I loved that Hayley was portrayed as a complex character who was had great inner strength but could also be very immature and judgmental at times. It felt like these character flaws were a good balance of Hayley’s natural personality but also a result of her unusual circumstances. The problems that the other primary and secondary characters were experiencing throughout Hayley’s narration also made reading this book a much richer experience. There is a common thread throughout these sub plots that show the reader different ways that the actions of parents affect their children. This reinforces Hayley’s own story and makes for a much better reading experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I blew through this in two days while on a trip, reading between meals or bouts of sight-seeing, sneaking a couple chapters while we rested in the hotel. This isn't a vacation read, but it is an important one. Like many of Laurie Halse Anderson's books, the premise of "The Impossible Knife of Memory" is simply described and masterfully executed. Hayley's story isn't plot heavy. It focuses mostly on the difficulties of day to day life in a place that's unfamiliar, with a person you love but whose behavior you can no longer predict. Hayley's father Andy has trouble confronting his wartime memories and coming to terms with the violence that he's seen. One of the most fascinating parts of the book to me was how Hayley's behavior matched his when she was stressed or scared. Her methodical approach to danger, as well as the memories she suppressed or altered to suit her current reality, were a perfect illustration of how mental illness doesn't just affect its victims. Hayley is as much a product of her traumatic past as Andy is, and it takes her time to realize it. I didn't spend a lot of time swooning over the romance, but I enjoyed Finn's role in the story as Hayley's logical but funny counterpart, reminding her that there's life outside of caring for her dad. The secondary character I really enjoyed was Trish, who was just the right blend of well-meaning and regretful, learning from her own set of mistakes. My only real complaint here was the lack of resolution regarding a couple minor plot threads. I was dying to here how Grace's family situation shaped up, and whether she stopped needing her own vice. I wanted to hear what happened to Finn's family regarding his dirty little secret. I want to know how Hayley and Andy's relationship changed following his release from treatment, and if he was capable of being the parent again. That said, I enjoyed "The Impossible Knife of Memory," and I'd recommend to anyone who loves contemporary YA at a breakneck pace.
FragileHeartbeat More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I sat and read it in a day. It's riveting and a page turner! Any who purchase this book will not be disappointed! By far the best book by Laurie!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down
Chancie More than 1 year ago
Overall seemed a little bland and forgettable to me. It wasn't terrible or anything, just nothing that stood out either.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I round this book to be just what I was looking for. It deals with real struggles and has a realistic romance in it. The characters are well-developed and each deal with their own problems. I knew what PTSD, but had never read about it before. I thought this book dealt with issues out of the realm of the typical ones authors chose. Overall, a well-written book and a good read. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so good! I cannot even express how much I loved this book. Just wow. Laurie Halse Anderson has written another amazing book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I never thought I would enjoy this book. it's definately a hard boom to read at times, but its so worth it. I recomend it to anybody.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The wordsin this book just slice right through you in each chapter
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
To know that everyone starts out as a freak according to Hayley, gives me great comfort. To know that we are all on the same playing field, no one better than another, we are all equals in life just passing through different stages, all freaks. Looking through the eyes of Hayley Kincain, life is complicated. If Hayley only had one wish, she would wish to have her father back; her father before he was broken. Hayley sarcasm and honesty has landed her in detention enough her senior year that the authorities are keeping a close watch on her. With Gracie at her side, Hayley just wants to get through this year and graduate. While others are concerned about their plans after graduation, Hayley just wants to get through another day. Her father is reliving the war in his mind and without help, the war is winning. The battles that her father fights are constant although his duty has been served and his purple heart has been pinned honorably. The war is separating Hayley from her father as he hides behind his drinking, his depression, the mood swings, the blackouts and his denial. Wanting her father to get help, he refuses to seek assist blaming these people for causing his suffering. When some of his Army buddies arrive at the house, Hayley is afraid of the reaction her father might have considering his previous symptoms. There is a war going on everywhere you look, someone needs to get help before there are more causalities. The character of Hayley was played out so well. From her sarcastic tone to her ability to stand up for what she thought was right, she was a great. She had me laughing out loud with her attitude as she was such a strong force and was not afraid to be heard. Her father was a mess so she was left to pick up the pieces and she did a good job of doing that. The story was great and the message was terrific. “A nurse sent us to an Activity Room. Whoever named it that had a sick sense of humor. Of the dozen residents there, only one seemed to have a pulse, a lady in a faded flowered dress pushing a walker so slowly it was hard to tell what direction she was moving in.”
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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BookAffair More than 1 year ago
3 of 5 stars Recommended for: veterans/children of veterans Read from June 10 to 12, 2014, read count: 1 I read this book in a day and half---love Finn. I did not like the way it ended. I want the characters, my friends, to live a happily ever after and it did not happen for them nor was there any glimpse that a happily ever after was in their futures---except for maybe Finn. I think that people must want a happily ever after, must want more for their lives than the hand that is sometimes dealt. Then, I began to think that maybe there are people who dream their lives could be better, but do not know how to grasp the rainbow, because their only "endeavor" in life is just making it through "today"---just today. The teens in this story are just trying to make it through today and perhaps make a river of the hand they have been dealt by their own family members who have not a clue how to get through the day and spy the future any better than they do. Life is what you make it. And I was disappointed with the ending to this book because I do no believe the characters learned that valuable truism. Everyone carries around their own monsters.----Richard Pryor-- But we must learn to live around them, in spite of them, and sometimes feeding the monsters that take control of our lives only worsens the situation. The title is certainly suitable---the impossible knife of memory is difficult to endure--but we must move on. We must make peace with our memories---thereby making peace with ourselves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book! I found myself completely wrapped inside this book through all the cold and warm situations. That may sound like a weird analogy or comparison but if you read this, you'll know what I mean. Laurie's writing style is unique and just plain perfect. I also love that she develops side characters so that they are not just apart of Hayley's life but that they have their own too. Besides the book being amazing, Laurie is quite the charmer herself. She's funny, open, and just very personable. I had the pleasure of meeting her through my school, and for all of you that think it's a little to old for 12 year olds. I think it depends on maturity because I am just a thirteen year old turning fourteen soon, and can NOT wait to read her other best sellers!
foreverplusaday More than 1 year ago
The impossible knife of memory is a poinet story of a father and daughter struggling between fighting their fears or letting it control them. Author Laurie Hasle Anderson has once again artfully portrayed a true to life tale, this time about how PTSD affects more than just the sufferers. This book is one that will make the reader reflect on their own issues and challenge them to overcome challenges through support and perseverance. Aside from the predictable and underdeveloped ending, this novel is relatable and nail biting. It speaks for the still-silent among society and forces the audience to acknowledge the real and painful truths that are too dangerous to ignore. The main character Hayley, is very relatable to the book's target audience of young adults. She is a high school senior who has just entered a new school after spending years on the road with her father trying to outrun the memories that haunt them both. Hayley finds it extremely difficult to fit it in because she is behind in acedemics and socially akward. Hayley's battle to be accepted is something every teen experiences due to the pressure to belong in school. Hayley’s friends and teachers encourage her to think about her own future instead of just her fathers, but she still debates going to college; Hayley fears if she leaves home, her father will not be able to take care of himself. This situation is reminiscent of the same situation that high school seniors are confronting now. The daunting task of decide your future can put stress on anyone. As a senior reading the book, I could identify with the decision to leave my family and creating my own future but also with the anxiety that such an impactful chocie creates. Anderson ends a multitude of chapter with a cliff hanger thus rending the reader to say, " just one more chapter..." However, one more chapter quickly turns into ten chapters when reading this novel. Between Hayley's defensive and agressive attitude and Andy's drastic mood swings and past demons, the book makes readers want more thus leading to a interesting read. These chapter ending also are extremly resonating because they connect to the heart-wrenching emotions the characters experience. This mix of action with feeling result in a gripping page-turner. The conclusion to this novel was only a few pages that briefly told Andy and Hayley's future. However, it felt rushed and not as detailed as the rest of this amazing book. Anderson would have benefited from extending this last chapter to include more information about how the characters progress. The novel also had a sappy " happily ever after" ending. After all the anticipation that Andy would finally snap, the ending was both a disappointment and a relief. On one hand, a book with an unforeseen ending leaves the reader with with a shock value, the characters deserved peaceful closure wrapped up with a bow. I highly recomend The Impossible Knife of Memory to anyone who feels like they need hope or inspiration in their lives. Although be warned- it will make you cry. So grab a box of tissues, a comfortable chair and hunker down to enjoy the stunning and powerful book, The Impossible Knife of Memory.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Laurie Halse Anderson outdid herself yet again!