Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Grades 9 and up
Teen/Young Adult Military Historical Fiction
Publisher: Vikings Books for Young Readers, January 7, 2014
384 pages
Format: Hardcover
Source: Amazon
My Rating: 3/5

Book Summary from

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.

My Thoughts:

Well, this was a H-E-A-V-Y read...but don't we know by now when we pick up a Laurie Halse Anderson book what we are getting?  

I found this book on my middle school library shelves and as a mom and teacher I feel it is definitely higher than middle school as much of the content, language and circumstances are just not appropriate for a younger audience.  I am going to recommend that this book be shipped to the high school where it has a more mature audience.

I always judge a book by how fast I read it - if I am really into it, it goes fast.  If not, then I usually rate it lower because it just didn't make me want to read it.  This novel falls into that category of "novels that took me a long time to get through."  I didn't hate it but I didn't love it either so it gets a 3/5.

I appreciate how Anderson deals with the real issue of war veterans and how PTSD affects them AND their families when they return home.  This issue was handled in a very real and raw way, sometimes to the point of being uncomfortable (which is what I think Anderson wanted the reader to experience.)  Because of the drug abuse, emotional abuse and very adult content this book is definitely more appropriate for an older audience who can handle these mature issues.

My major fault with novels like this one is that the author spends SO MUCH TIME building the horribleness of the story and circumstance and then everything comes together in a way that doesn't seem realistic given the story told thus far.  I feel like it was tense until the last two pages and then "poof," the main characters get it together and live as happily ever after as they can.  

Overall I am glad to have read this, it was a good opportunity to step into the shoes of a child experiencing their parent's PTSD first-hand.  I look forward to other books that address this issue as well.