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The Impossible Knife of Memory

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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 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.

391 pages, Hardcover

First published January 2, 2014

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About the author

Laurie Halse Anderson

115 books16.5k followers

UPDATE! SHOUT, my memoir in verse, is out, has received 9 starred reviews, and was longlisted for the National Book Award!

For bio stuff: Laurie Halse Anderson is a New York Times bestselling author whose writing spans young readers, teens, and adults. Combined, her books have sold more than 8 million copies. Her new book, SHOUT, a memoir-in-verse about surviving sexual assault at the age of thirteen and a manifesta for the #MeToo era, has received widespread critical acclaim and appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for seven consecutive weeks.

Laurie has been nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award four times. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists, and Chains was short-listed for the prestigious Carnegie medal. Two more books, Shout and The Impossible Knife of Memory, were long-listed for the National Book Award. Laurie was selected by the American Library Association for the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award and has been honored for her battles for intellectual freedom by the National Coalition Against Censorship and the National Council of Teachers of English.

In addition to combating censorship, Laurie regularly speaks about the need for diversity in publishing and is a member of RAINN’s National Leadership Council. She lives in Philadelphia, where she enjoys cheesesteaks while she writes. Find out more about Laurie by following her on Twitter at @halseanderson, Instagram at halseanderson, and Facebook at lauriehalseanderson, or by visiting her website, madwomanintheforest.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,800 reviews
January 16, 2014
This is not a bad book by any means, but it left me quite emotionless despite the gravity of the situation that it portrayed. I think a lot of people will enjoy this book; clearly from the high ratings of this book, a lot of people have. It just didn't work for me.

I feel like this book sanitizes PTSD into a very clean depiction. For me, this book is not dark. It did not feel depressing. It was not emotionally wracking. This book portrayed PTSD through a very clean, filtered lens, a textbook description of bipolar disorder and manic depression as a symptom of PTSD rather than anything truly heart-wrenching. To top it off, it was told through the narrative of a stereotypically "annoying" and "tough" teenaged girl with whom I found hard to relate.

This book is about PTSD. I know about PTSD. My father, uncles, and many of his friends fought in the Vietnam war. He still wakes up in the middle of the night from his nightmares.

(He's the tall, gawky one. The camera awkwardness is genetic. Thanks, dad.)

My father has seen friends killed in combat. He himself has killed enemy soldiers. He's buried his brother in law, he's seen his beloved older sister commit suicide because she couldn't live without her soldier husband. Trust me, I know about PTSD.

This is a very personal subject for me, and that is why I read this book. I wanted this book to make me feel emotionally broken. I wanted so badly to love the main character, to sympathize with her. To an extent I do, her situation is extremely grave, and it left me feeling very worried for her at times, but I just couldn't relate to her.

The book did not make my heart ache for a single beat. I never felt the slightest tingle of tears behind my eyes. It did not left me broken in the least. No, this is not a bad book, but it did not emotionally connect with me.

Hailey is our main character. She is a surly, sullen teenager. She hates everyone, everything. She is the trope of an angry teenager, and while it is understandable, it doesn't really make her a character that I like. For an overwhelming part of the book, I had an intense dislike of Hailey.

I know that teenagers are not perfect. I know that they need time to mature. Trust me, I was your stereotypical teenager myself, but that doesn't mean you would like me when you met me, and it doesn't mean that I like the character that Hailey is, within this book. I understand that not all characters are likeable, but they need to be sympathetic. For someone whose home situation is so grave, I could not find within myself the sympathy I should have had for Hailey, due to the overwhelming amount of apathy that is her personality.

Hailey puts all her peers into two categories. She is terribly closed-minded. She labels people. Everyone is either a freak or a zombie.
There are two kinds of people in this world:
1. zombies
2. freaks.
Only two. Anyone who tells you different is lying. That person is a lying zombie. Do not listen to zombies. Run for your freaking life.
Another lesson: everyone is born a freak.
She hates authority figure. All adults are out to get her.
My math teacher had a vendetta against me and as proof I offer the fact that I had not been told about Wednesday’s test.
Hailey flaunts the rules. She rebels in the dumbest ways.
All of my answers were drawings of armored unicorns. Five minutes before the period ended, the principal’s voice lectured the entire school about how badly we’d screwed up last week’s lockdown drill. I drew a bomb attached to a ticking clock under one of the unicorns.
I found it so hard to get into the book, because so much of the book felt like Hailey's character was an overinflation of an angry teenaged character with whom we were supposed to relate, with whom we were supposed to sympathize, if not like. We are supposed to gradually fall in love with Hailey. I never got past the "hate" stage myself.

Part of the reason why she's so angry is because her situation at home is far less than ideal. Her father is a veteran, and suffers from PTSD. On a good day, he is smiling, laughing, he can talk to his friends, he can pretend to be normal.

On a typical day, her father can barely move.
Another lie. I leaned my forehead against the door. “Did you even try to get out the door? Did you get dressed? Take a shower?”
“I’ll try harder tomorrow, princess. I promise.”
On a bad day...
He grabbed the front of my sweatshirt. I gasped. His jaw was clenched tight. The bonfire danced in his eyes. I had to say something to calm him down, but he looked so far gone I wasn’t sure he’d hear me. He tightened his grip, pulling me up on my tiptoes. His free hand was balled into a fist. He had never hit me before, not once.
I braced myself.
Hailey has an ally at school, a boy called Finn who is unexpectedly overbearing. He follows her around, he forces her to write for the school paper. I was pretty sick of Finn by the first 25% of the book, to be honest. Finn is one of those guys who just do not take no for an answer. Not in a sexual way, but in an pervasive way. Finn never gives up. He is like the albatross around your neck. He slowly grows on Hailey, and I have to admit that Finn grew on me pretty quickly after I got over my initial bad impression of him.
“I really like you, Hayley Kincain. I want to be with you as much as I can. I get that it’s weird at your house, scary maybe, and your dad can be a jerk. You don’t have to tell me about it if you don’t want to, but it kills me because you are so beautiful and smart and awesome and I don’t want anything to be scary for you, I just want—”
The thing is that their romance is so fast, so clean, it feels so forced. It is too perfect. I don't understand why Finn chooses to be with Hailey. I don't know why he zones in on Hailey to be his girlfriend, because make no mistake, he absolutely has his eyes on Hailey since we first meet him. I don't understand it. Hailey is not a likeable character when we first meet her, and the fact that Finn so overwhelmingly likes her from the start is so completely unrealistic. Their romance is very sweet, but not at all believable.

The book does not portray teenagers in a way that I found realistic. I am not so far from high school that I do not remember it, and the high schoolers in this book were more or less high school YA tropes, with the angry boys and the flirty, giggly teen girls. And then there is the terrible, sad attempt at text speak in a text message. Sigh. I send texts. I know teenagers who sends texts. There is not a single teenager I know who sends texts like these:
he wnts 2 no if yr gay
want to go out with me?
chill, im not gay
???? r u shur
you’re not my type G
wats yr typ?
people who can spell
fin sez he kn spl
Several pages of this. It made my head hurt so much.

This book tries to depict PTSD sensitively and realistically, but I think it is too whitewashed to be emotionally believable. This is not a bad book, but as an emotional depiction of PTSD, it fails.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,464 reviews8,575 followers
August 30, 2016
As someone who wrote an entire research paper on the importance of YA fiction and the genius of Laurie Halse Anderson, I own up to my bias. The Impossible Knife of Memory captures so much of what I love about young-adult contemporary and realistic fiction. It possesses a witty and cynical narrator, it delves into a real and painful issue, and it offers a nuanced yet meaningful message of hope.

Hayley Kincaid divides the human race into two types of people: the freaks and the zombies. Her lack of faith in her fellow man makes sense - she spent the past five years on the road with her father, Andy, a war vet who resorts to alcohol and drugs to escape his demons. He decides that they should move back into his hometown, and Hayley starts up at a normal high school, except nothing in her life is normal. Not Andy's PTSD that still plagues him and leaves him screaming in his sleep, not Gracie, her best friend who suffers family issues of her own, and definitely not Finn, the attractive nerd with a disarming smile and a host of secrets. As Hayley's bond with Finn escalates, she fights the memories that threaten to rise up and tear her apart again and again.

Hayley's voice stuck out to me from the first page. Smart, disillusioned, and laced with acid, she reminded me of myself in high school, with just a bit more bite. Anderson writes in the first person perspective of a teenager with amazing skill. Adolescents and adults alike will relate to Hayley when she reflects upon the pointlessness of teenage drama, when she ruminates on how the other kids at school must be so lucky to lead such blessed lives, and when she refuses to put with what she finds stupid and mundane on a daily basis.

But beneath all of Hayley's snide remarks lies a pain-ridden emotional undercurrent. Anderson's flashback snippets entrench us not only in Andy's experience as a soldier, but it allows us to view Hayley's suffering too. Raised without her birth mother, abandoned as a child, and more responsible for her father than he is for her, Hayley represses her trauma and deals with a ticking time bomb every day: not just her father's mood swings, but her own deep mental wounds. In The Impossible Knife of Memory Anderson makes sense of a messy teenage mindset while still offering a flawed yet realistic ending, rife with the seeds of a better future.

I adored the romance between Hayley and Finn. Now that I'm 18 I guess I have to say I wish I "had" a boyfriend like Finn in high school - even though that makes me feel old, their relationship supplied me with all the feelings. Their snarky banter kept me entertained and their deeper conversations left me in awe of Anderson's character development. Neither of them are perfect and their relationship isn't all roses and rainbows, but in the end, the trials and tribulations make it all the more worthwhile.

Highly recommended to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson and young-adult realistic or contemporary fiction, as well as those interested in a book that deals with PTSD. Anderson has set the bar high for 2014 and I can only hope that other authors live up to the challenge.

*review cross-posted on my blog, the quiet voice.
Profile Image for Kat (Lost in Neverland).
445 reviews704 followers
September 8, 2014

What even was that cheesy ending, oh my god.

Haley believes there are only two kinds of people in the world: freaks and zombies. Everyone is a freak until they hit high school, where the zombification process sets in.

Haley lives with her father, a war veteran with severe PTSD, and struggles with the responsibility of having to practically care for him whenever he drinks too much or wakes up in the middle of the night screaming.
She disregards school and the zombies within, believing that it's all useless anyway, since her life is going nowhere as long as she has to take care of her dad.
But life has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it, and in Haley's case it's with the surprise friendship of Finn, a persistent teasing boy, and the arrival of Trish, her father's ex-girlfriend.

Not being a fan of Anderson's popular novel, Speak, I went into this one with slight wariness.

So, where to start?

Shall I begin with the unlikeable, utterly flat and irritating characters? Or perhaps the long, drawn-out story with needless drama that could have been written in under 200 pages instead of nearly 400?

Let's do characters, as that's always fun.

Haley spends the entirety of her narrative spewing nothing but her pretentious, hipster, I'm-better-than-everyone-else-because-I'm-difereeeennnt bullshit.

She judges anyone who isn't her closest friend and seems to think her situation is worse than anyone else's, despite never actually looking at other people (other than to sneer at their zombie-ness).

Yes, she has to take care of her mentally unstable father, who certainly can't take care of himself. But does that give you the right to curl your lip at anyone who appears slightly against your super special credentials?

Ooh, she's wearing makeup and a miniskirt, she must be a stupid bitch!

Ooh, a teacher gave me an F for a test I didn't even do, they must be out to get me!

Ooh, he plays sports, so he must be a dumb jock!

Zombie zombie zombie, 'pretending at life', zombie zombie.


Everyone has problems. Everyone is dealing with their own shit and emotional drama, not just you.

This is not a good message to be sending people through this book.

For a teenager, it's hard to believe you're not alone. It's hard to believe someone else is having the same problems and that people are able to help you.

What the book should have done was shown that you can't judge people by their appearance. If you get to know someone, oh hey, they have depression. Oh hey, they have abusive parents. Oh hey, one of their loved ones just died.
Haley immediately labels everyone a mindless zombie and sticks her nose up at other teenagers, especially girls. Because, oooh, all other girls are obsessed with boys while I read books and don't wear makeup, I'm so fucking special!


The only reason Haley didn't classify her friend Gracie as a 'zombie' too, was because she knew her. She knew Gracie's parents fought all the time and were getting a divorce and that she was taking it hard.
If Haley had not known Gracie, she would have thought she was just another zombie with a perfect boyfriend and a perfect family, because god forbid someone else have family issues besides Haley.

She also immediately assumed Finn had perfect parents even though she knew nothing about him.

Speaking of Finn, let's talk about this love interest, shall we?

Finn is a contradiction. On one hand, he's a math nerd that makes hilarious calculus sex puns. On the other hand, he was a star swimmer with dozens of young girls lusting after him.


Young girls that Haley called 'baby-zombie-bitches' for wearing high heels in school. I myself don't understand the appeal of wearing high heels to school but come on. Bitches? What did they ever do to you, Haley?

There are times, I admit, he was cute and sweet.
But for the majority of the novel, he was pushy and couldn't keep his fucking dick in his pants.

In one scene that made me seethe with anger for hours after I had read it, Haley is talking to Finn but he's not listening because he's entranced by the sight of a girl in a miniskirt. When his fucking girlfriend is not two feet away from him.

He doesn't even acknowledge how rude that was, not only for Haley but for openly and unabashedly staring at the girl in the skirt's butt.
And Haley, being the judgmental little cock she is, gets angry at the girl. Instead of at her stupid, overly horny boyfriend who can't seem to think straight when the first girl in a short skirt comes trotting by.

This scene is wrong in so many ways;
It is seen as okay for Finn to ogle another girl despite his girlfriend being right there, and then Haley blames the girl, who has no fault in this situation.
It's not the girl's fault that Finn can't keep it in his pants. Or, as Gracie's boyfriend remarks, "He's thinking with his other brain at the moment."

Instead of getting angry at Finn, she looks towards the girl to blame, because, shit that girl wore a skirt in winter and made my boyfriend stop paying attention to me. I want to claw her face off!


This is not a good message to be sending.

I'm ashamed of Anderson. Her book, Speak, sent the message to speak for yourself and your basic human rights and not let people take advantage of you.
This book says to judge and to not get to know people before you make unfair assumptions against them.

Other characters like Gracie and Trish, who Haley hates for some unknown reason that she never fully explains, didn't interest me or make me feel emotional at all. The only bad thing against Trish was that she was a drunk and she walked out on Haley and her dad.
But I can't really blame her, because Haley's father did nothing but drink as well and fight with Trish, even though Trish was basically who raised Haley and was kind to her for most of her life.
At least Trish got rid of her drinking problem. Don't call Trish the drunk when your own father passes out after five bottles of beer almost every night. Trish seemed to just be put in for more unnecessary 'woman-on-woman hate'.

I don't have much experience with PTSD, so I can't really analyze Haley's father's character. It was slightly interesting to see the effects of a war has on a person, but unfortunately, the book was too drawn out and fairly boring for the most part.
Haley did nothing but angrily brood all the time and the ending was unbearably cheesy and happy.

Profile Image for Kristine.
658 reviews114 followers
May 7, 2014
On April 20, 1999, I was a senior in high school. My friends and I had returned from lunch and I was sitting in Chemistry class. My teacher got a phone call and said there'd been a shooting in Colorado and she was going to turn on the news on the TV. We were in mountain time zone so we watched live from our classroom as kids jumped out of the windows of their classrooms two states away in Columbine. The next day we came to school we were all a little spooked. At about 10 am I was in Sra. Owens' Spanish class when someone pulled the fire alarm. Everyone froze - the intercom told us all to go outside. As students streamed out of the school it was eerily like what we'd seen the day before - and I did not handle it well as it felt like we were all waiting for gunshots to start going off. Nothing happened and we all went back to our classrooms. I was still shaking. The school announced an apology and that any student wishing to check out for the rest of the day could have an excused absence. I had never skipped school but not much learning would have happened that day.

So I think back to the world that I grew up in. My world as a teenager - no cell phones, no internet, no email, no porn, no regular school shootings. Our fathers were young enough that they'd never been drafted or fought in a war (with rare exception-there were some older dads out there). There were some families dealing with divorce, but not very many. The economy was booming and from all respects we were taught that all we had to do was get a college education and we'd be set for life. I even remember gas being 96 cents and unemployment being so low pizza places were giving out signing bonuses for hiring on.

Fast forward to today. I hear a lot of complaints about kids these days. They are lazy, good-for-nothing, self-centered mooches. No ambition, no working hard, no nothing. But have you ever put yourselves in their shoes? I mean sure I read YA - but this piece of realistic fiction is a pretty good slice of life if you want to be educated. Because what do today's kids have to survive?

Social lives on the internet, cyber bullying & stalking, viral pictures, kids' sexual assault is excused of as a prank, terrorist drills at school, PTSD parents at home, and more broken families than I remember there being 15 years ago. And kids going to college have no guarantee they'll be able to find a job at all. This book isn't about ALL of that, but just trying to imagine it.....How do you look forward to the future? Where is there hope?

This book is about Hayley, whose single-parent father is suffering from PTSD from Iraq/Afghanistan. She's attempting to reintegrate into school after 8 years of 'unshchooling' homeschool on the road with her dad. Things are getting worse at home. There is a cute boy. She has one best friend whose family life is falling apart.

In a strange way this book reminded me of How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. Because if we want to help those around us succeed, we need to take a hard look at what types of intervention can lessen the trauma in their life. The highest indicator of failure in life isn't poverty: it's trauma.

I literally couldn't put this book down. Started reading at midnight. At 430 am closed the book a new person; more compassionate and understanding.

Read this book!


So excited to get an ARC from Penguin First Reads - LHAnderson is amazing. Although her YA works are popular, they are far from filler. Looking forward to some good YA literature, it's been a while.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,230 reviews1,653 followers
December 26, 2013
Can I just say that Laurie Halse Anderson is the best? Actually, don’t answer that, because I don’t care what you think, because she just is the best and I refuse to argue that point. The Impossible Knife of Memory is my third Laurie Halse Anderson read and also my favorite. For those who are curious, the other two were Speak and Catalyst. The Impossible Knife of Memory is dark, hilarious, oh so quotable, and has a truly amazing ship.

Read the full review at A Reader of Fictions.
589 reviews1,031 followers
June 30, 2015
See more reviews at YA Midnight Reads

At first, I thought I was a black sheep. Most of my friends loved this book, cried over it, still in a book hangover just thinking of this novel. But a few days upon finishing The Impossible Knife of Memory, I took a quick peek at the ratings on Goodreads. I won't say that the ratings were distributed evenly all the way, but it seems that quite a number were just as disappointed as I was.

The Impossible Knife of Memory started off really well. Fantastically, even. I thought I'd like Hayley, with her snarky and witty comebacks. She struggled at keeping her thoughts capped off in her head, used to be homeschooled by her father. All these things were signs of a promising protagonist. Then the more I read, the less enthusiastic I got about her. She's prejudiced. She categorises people. She deems that there are only zombies and freaks that walk the Earth. She's always, always angry. She's brooding. The synopsis tells me that Hayley is still fighting demons of her own. But this doesn't mean she can be all those things I aforementioned. Her character felt awfully forced and unrealistic. One minute she's rebelling against the teachers, next minute she's labelling strangers that walk by on the sidewalk. I could barely handle it.

Before I start blubbering out my qualms on the romance, I'll say it: the romance was cute. It felt realistic at times. There was banter. There were arguments. None of that filler-in-pointless-drama-crap. Real problems. Finn and Hayley had to work through them together. I liked that. I liked the portrayal. Yet, taking a step back, in my view there are flaws. The romance was out of the blue. One day there's suddenly focus on Finn, and for an unexplained and unclear reason, he decides that he wants to be with Hayley. He just out of the blue, probably thought: "Hey moody girl! I want her to be my girlfriend." Like seriously, despite it's cuteness, I didn't see the chemistry or why and how it happened in the first place.

I haven't a lot of knowledge on PTSD. Apparently, Hayley's father has PTSD. I've only read one or two books on PTSD but I don't recall it being this 'neat'. And by neat I mean like the harshness and details were glazed over. I guess part of the reason was because the main character didn't have PTSD, but I still felt rather distant from the fact that there was a character who had PTSD. Hayley's father could have easily been labelled as a drunk or someone with Multiple Personality Disorder instead.

My last other complaint I'd like to raise is the txt spk. who tlkz lyk dis ocer txt?! imma juz ganz tlkz lyk dis 4 der rzt o der prgrph cuz imz soooooo kool. Aaaaand I'll stop now because that's just plain hard to type. I am a teenager. I have teenage friends. NONE of them text like that. In fact, the worst we do is have the occasional typo or grammatical misuse. There's also something called autocorrect. Most phones have this function.

Unfortunately, The Impossible Knife of Memory was not my cup of tea. The characters, romance and way the author dealt with PTSD just did not sit well for me, even though many others loved this book. I still recommend people to give this a try, because Anderson can put words together like poetry with her eyes closed.

~Thank you Text Publishing for sending me this copy!~
Profile Image for emma.
1,823 reviews48.7k followers
August 17, 2021
life has its perfect combinations. peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and chocolate...peanut butter and bananas...peanut butter and apples.

okay, maybe peanut butter is just good.

but another of those classic pairings? the year 2014 and the endless, unceasing production of young adult contemporaries about mental illness.

i don't think i've ever liked one, but i sure have read a lot of them.

join me as i continue to strain the bounds of the word "review" in my review-books-i-read-a-long-time-ago project
Profile Image for Ingrid.
450 reviews38 followers
January 28, 2014
I've hit a bit of a rough patch with books. For the past month, many of the books I've read have been kind of okay, lame, or just confusing. At least two books this month I've been unsure of whether I liked them or didn't, because they had issues, but had beauty.

This is another book that I'm not sure if I liked, but know that I didn't hate. Like with all of Laurie Halse Anderson's books, The Impossible Knife of Memory explores a tricky subject that in some hands could be easily botched. The subject of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Hayley's dad is a veteran, and his years of war scarred him mentally and emotionally. He struggles with fear, stress, and definitely trauma, making home a scary and unhappy place for Hayley. Hayley, of course, has to go through the book to find herself, grow up, and regain her memory.

Let's break this down into two groups: Like vs Dislike.


-Beautiful writing. Anderson's words flow, her pacing is perfect, and the writing is hooking. Everytime I read one of her books I'm blown away just by the word-choosing talent.

-Hayley's Dad. I know he's probably not a popular character, but I liked him and had compassion on him (more so than Hayley, I'm sorry to say.) Not knowing a whole lot about PTSD, I can't say whether or not he was an accurate portrayal.

-Trish. Sorry, but I thought she made sense. And I liked her. If I'd been her, I probably would've run out of that place too. I don't blame her, and Hayley's pure hatred of her irritated me.


-Hayley. It's always an unfortunate thing when you dislike the protagonist. Hayley was just... angry and hated everyone. Yes, teens have crappy attitudes. Yes, she had home issues. I get all that. I just couldn't relate to her because she was so over the top mad and judgmental of every human being. Also, I don't think that it's too unrealistic to have a teen protagonist who doesn't hate everything and can actually have a positive attitude. I mean, we exist. *Waves hand* I don't hate everything!

-Finn. Yes, another main character I didn't like much. I just... didn't buy him. He didn't seem like a very realistic character and there's no discernible reason for why he likes Hayley so much. He just shows up one day and then doesn't stop. There didn't seem to be a whole lot of substance in that relationship.

-The memory part of this book. I' m not sure what Anderson was trying to do with this aspect of the book. Hayley doesn't have any memories from her childhood. She's blocked it out, and refuses to remember anything. Sometimes a little memory will come up, and she'll push it away by a complex pattern of breathing and distracting herself. It wasn't clear why she was doing this, and it never added to the story. I'd say it was more of a distraction from the meat of the plot.

Sadly, the dislike outweighed the like in this review, but the book wasn't a complete waste. It was still well-written and I like what Anderson does for the teen genre with her heavies topics.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
September 15, 2015
2.5 stars

Objectively, well written, but there is nothing new here. A cutesy romance mixed with family drama. Even though some of the drama is PTSD-related, still the feeling of same old, same old remains.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,453 reviews7,565 followers
April 24, 2014
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

When Hayley’s dad Andy returned from fighting overseas five years ago, he was a changed man. He tried battling his PTSD by running – taking Hayley with him over-the-road and home schooling her. Now Andy and Hayley have moved back to their hometown in an attempt to give Hayley a sense of normalcy for her senior year of high school. But how can Hayley ever know what "normal” is when she is being raised by someone who can “turn into a werewolf even if the moon isn’t full” and when she is fighting demons of her own?

Oh man. This was a solid 4-Star book. Such a haunting, heavy storyline (especially Andy’s narratives). I was almost positive this was going to be a winner and make me cry big fat tears. Until the end . . .

This book was dark. I was prepared for dark. A particular reoccurring scene in the book led me to believe it was going to get super dark. I braced myself for a huge blow and armed myself with a box of tissues. Sadly, the book didn’t deliver.

I’ll be the first to admit I can be a harsh critic. I am also very forgiving - especially when it comes to YA novels. I have come to expect the fact that there's a good chance I won't like the main character. At any point in the book. Period. I have come to expect situations might be handled with "kid gloves" (no pun intended) compared to other novels. What I don't expect is for an author to throw in the towel and write what may be the crappiest ending I've ever read. Many will love this book and won’t have a problem with the ending at all, but for me? Those final few pages of suckitude caused my rating to drop significantly.
Profile Image for ALPHAreader.
1,118 reviews
December 20, 2013
‘The Impossible Knife of Memory’ is the new young adult novel from Laurie Halse Anderson.

I finished reading this book the same week that Australian soldiers completed withdrawal from the Afghanistan Uruzgan province. It was an unsettling overlap in my reading – when majority news outlets were reporting positively on the withdrawal, but none were mentioning the road ahead for the returning soldiers. This is the crux of Anderson’s story, which follows eighteen-year-old Hayley Rose who has recently moved into her dead Gramma’s house with her veteran father.

Hayley’s Dad did two tours of Iraq and Afghanistan; a single father since the tragic death of Hayley’s mother, he left his young daughter in the care of his “base bunny” girlfriend, Trish, who was an alcoholic and eventually abandoned the family. When he became a civilian again, he and Hayley spent a few years travelling in his big-rig truck where he homeschooled and “unschooled” his daughter. But now senior year is approaching and Hayley’s Dad is adamant that they put down roots and she start thinking of college.

It’s sounds all good in theory, but Hayley’s dad isn’t coping with civilian life. The quiet unsettles him, leaves too much room for dark memories and he wakes up screaming. Since returning to his hometown, he’s also fallen in with the wrong sorts of friends and finds solace in drugs and drinking. Hayley leaves for school most days terrified of what she’ll come home to.

No one should be surprised that it’s Laurie Halse Anderson tackling this troubling topic of PTSD and the repercussions of a decades’ worth of war, particularly its impact on the families of those who served. This is the same Anderson who broke out with ‘Speak’ in 1999, about a girl’s struggles to speak about the rape that so traumatized her. In 2007 she wrote ‘Twisted’, which examined modern masculinity and her 2009 book, ‘Wintergirls’ was about two friends with eating disorders and a competitive streak. Laurie Halse Anderson has the unnerving knack of addressing confronting topics in the most tender and understanding of ways. ‘The Impossible Knife of Memory’ continues Anderson’s preoccupation with writing about the very things society has yet to confront in a meaningful way, and she does it beautifully … hauntingly;

More months in the hospital, then the big welcome home, dog tags turned in, army days over. (That was before we knew about the fraying wires in his skull. Before we knew that he could turn into a werewolf even if the moon wasn’t full.)

Hayley Rose is our narrator. A prickly teenager to be sure, she believes people fall into one of two categories; freaks and zombies. She’s smart and acerbic, with a penchant for correcting her teacher’s teachings and non-conforming to the zombie-horde at school. She’s brilliant. But the burden of caring for her ailing father who doesn’t want anyone’s help has perhaps turned her too bitter, too young.

The tang of gunpowder lingered in the house, so strong that I wondered if he’d opened a couple of shells for the hell of it. Freakish visions crowded in – Dad smearing gunpowder on his face for camouflage, Dad pouring a thick circle of gunpowder on the floor, sitting in the middle of it and lighting a match, Dad … The only way to get rid of them was to open all the windows and clean the table.
How many of the girls in my gym class had to clean up gunpowder and barrel oil after school?

And she’s scared. Scared for him and scared by the thought of losing the last member of her family. Her only friend is Grace, a beautiful girl with her own family troubles. But then Grace introduces Hayley to Finn, and things start changing.

Finn was on the swim team, but quit. When he tries resurrecting the school newspaper and recruiting Hayley as a journo, the two keep colliding and snarking at one another – until they actually start chipping away at one another’s armour and finding solace.

Something Anderson does so well is not writing a teen romance for the sake of it. Finn and Hayley give one another momentum, and both of them are struggling with very different family issues (as is Grace). Just as Hayley’s father starts receding from the world, and damning himself by refusing help from anyone – Hayley is experiencing the opposite, instead realising the benefits of having someone in your corner who you can be real with.

Hayley is our narrator, but interspersed throughout her story are recollections of unbidden memories, and slices of narration from her father. It’s in these moments that Anderson really, truly shines and breaks your heart a little and continuously. The PTSD reflections of Hayley’s father are not overblown – they’re snippets of horror and all the more impacting for their rarity in a novel that’s all about Hayley and her father living in the aftermath. Some of Anderson’s reflections in these parts are breathtaking;

Odysseus had twenty years to shed his battle skin. My grandfather left the battlefield in France and rode home in a ship that crawled across the ocean slowly so he could catch his breath. I get on a plane in hell and get off, hours later, at home.

I’m already calling this as one of my favourite books of 2014, and one that will be rightfully lauded come awards-season. Here is a novel full of cutting tenderness, quiet reflection interspersed with a young woman’s rage and crippling inability to help her suffering father. It’s beautiful and haunting, as all Laurie Halse Anderson books tend to be.
Profile Image for Tamora Pierce.
Author 152 books83.3k followers
May 31, 2014
A tense story about a father and daughter who are both trying to deal with post traumatic stress disorder, the father from his military service, and the daughter from living with a man who struggles with demons, liquor, unstable partners, and his own inability to hold down a job and home with his child. Reading this book, I felt like I was living on the edge of a cliff, and I was terrified that no one would be able to work out a way to live--you will feel the same way.
Profile Image for Deborah Ideiosepius.
1,626 reviews127 followers
October 28, 2019
This was a pleasant enough Young Adult novel dealing with themes of PTSD and joining a new school when your upbringing has been very different from your peers.

Hayley has spent most of her childhood being home schooled by her father as he drove trucks around the USA. Her father is a returning veteran who has refused assistance in dealing with his PTSD and his substance abuse problems. Heyley loves him and is protective of him, but her life has been pretty hard as a consequence of his behaviour.

Throughout the early part of the book we are given constant hints that Hayley herself has some for of PTSD, due to events from her childhood that she refuses to remember. This subplot fizzes out at some point when we find out that nothing particularly bad every did happen to her and she is merely dramatising. This is actually a bit of a common theme throughout this book; there are a lot of things that are brought up but never go anywhere. Not enough to make me think that there is a planned 'Hayley goes to university' book coming (thank goodness, the story ends at the back cover), but just loose ends everywhere that go nowhere.

When Hayley starts at school, gorgeous guy is fascinated by her and keeps coming back for more as she pushes him away, until she and he are finally an item ect ect. Not terribly done as YA model relationships go, but no more believable than any of them and not really terribly satisfying either as a romance or a friendship.

While it was an ok read, I did not really feel like this book contributed anything new. It was fine to pass an idle hour or so, it may resonate strongly with children of vets. While I liked that it explored PTSD and the effect it can have on families I did not feel that the narrative took many risks in examining any of the issues. Though I do totally respect the point that the author seemed to be making; namely that every family and every person has their own set of life problems to address.

The writing style is competent and well done, it is fun to read, the author understands the need of multiple characters and lots of events. The dialogue is often developed and enjoyable, especially between our two protagonists as they find they way around each other. The school background is a bit hazy - but I find this is common in a lot of high school writing, the author assumes that any YA reader can fill in the school for themselves, probably their own school.

Profile Image for Dianne.
559 reviews908 followers
August 10, 2014
This is a poignant young adult story about a teenaged girl, Hayley, trying to cope with her increasingly despondent and volatile father, who is suffering from head injuries from an IED and post-traumatic stress disorder after multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hayley’s mother and grandmother have been dead for years and she and her father have recently returned to her childhood home after living a nomadic lifestyle while her father tried to outrun his demons. Hayley enrolls in Belmont High School for her senior year, where she has to deal with many things that are new to her – peers, teachers, counselors and – ugh – pre-calculus. There is an obligatory mild romance between Hayley and Finn that slightly detracts from the power of this story, but it probably makes it more palatable to the intended audience. The story also touches on other issues – loss, abandonment, betrayal and the overall angst of being a teenager.

There is an awful lot on Hayley’s shoulders – the child becomes the parent and the parent the child. Hayley lives in fear every day of what may be waiting for her at home after school. I can only imagine the number of households where something like this plays out every day with so many of our veterans suffering from PTSD. Thought-provoking and definitely worth a read.
Profile Image for Susane Colasanti.
Author 21 books4,016 followers
November 9, 2013
Another phenomenal masterpiece by Laurie Halse Anderson. Breathtaking, moving, and gripping.
Profile Image for Alyssa | Swept Away By Books.
227 reviews419 followers
December 27, 2013
I am smacking myself for not reading any other books by Laurie Halse Anderson before this one. The Impossible Knife of Memory is an incredibly heavy story about a young girl who spends more time looking after her father who suffers from severe PTSD, than he spends looking after her. Despite the absolutely tough subject, Anderson throws in this underlying sense of hope that is so strong, it helps you push through the more emotional parts of the story.

And trust me, there are a lot. I was choked up for the majority of this book, and definitely cried at certain parts. What balanced out the emotional was the wonderfully witty and quick banter between Hayley and Finn. They complimented each other wonderfully, and I am so glad it wasn't the type of relationship where they only got together at the very end. Finn became a huge support system to Hayley when her dad got worse.

Hayley's relationship with her dad, Andy, was wonderful while at the same time being incredibly destructive. Hayley spent five important years of her life being the passenger in her dad's semi as they travelled the states trying to outrun his memories. And while this formed an incredibly strong bond between the two, it also took Hayley out of important years of high school, which has caused her to become a cynical and at times incredibly bitchy girl. But honestly, with her situation, you can't blame her for it. But, seeing the strength in Hayley to get her father back on her feet and the absolute hope she had for him, was amazing.

The Impossible Knife of Memory really tops my list of one of my favourite books that i've read this year. Anderson knows how to wrench incredibly strong emotions out of her readers, and this book is the best i've read so far dealing with the PTSD subject. Everyone needs to read this in January!
Profile Image for Ruth Turner.
408 reviews113 followers
August 24, 2014

I'm fence sitting with this one.

I thought it was going to be a tissue box story, but it failed to bring so much as a tear to my eye.

It's a well written, easy read, but I found I had no sympathy for any of the characters.

Some of the conversations between Finn and Hayley made my head hurt! Do young adults really talk like this? Really?

“The warped perception of time is a hallmark of trauma,” he said. “I’ve counseled a lot of superheroes. They all struggle with it.”
“Oh, really?” My hand dropped to touch his.
“Superheroes can be a pain in the balls,” he said. “Always acting tough, pretending nothing hurts.”
“What do you do with them?”
“Most of them go to a llama farm in New Mexico to meditate and spin wool. I don’t dare send you there.” He tugged gently, pulling me closer. “You’d scare the llamas.”
“You defame me, sir,” I said. “I am a kind and gentle friend of llamas.”...

And this is only one example. There were many.

Three stars, because although I didn't like it, I didn't hate it either.
Profile Image for Kelli.
235 reviews58 followers
February 16, 2015
4.5 stars.

"The old men take us there. A tiny hand, stained with blood and dust, pokes out of the rubble. The old men shout at us.
'What are they saying?' I ask.
'We got the wrong house,' the interpreter says.
We blew up a house filled with children and mothers and toothless grandmothers. The insurgent house sits empty, a stone's throw away.
The ancient men yell at me shake their fists.
I understand every word they say."

With every single Laurie Halse Anderson book that I've read, I'm always left thinking one word: wow. She has always been incredible at tackling tough and dark situations while still keeping the story poetic and beautiful. "The Impossible Knife of Memory" was no different. I picked it up because I was interested in reading a book covering the topic of PTSD since I never have before. I also knew that Anderson is an author that simply can't write anything poorly. She's too great an author for that, so I decided to give this book a try.

Boy, am I glad I did. "The Impossible Knife of Memory" tells a story about a girl who has always had to take care of her father, who suffers from severe PTSD after serving four tours overseas as a captain in the US army. It also involves a unique romance between Hayley, the main character, and a boy named Finn. Overall, it was a heartbreaking yet fantastic story with few flaws...basically, it was a classic Anderson book.

It took me much longer than I expected to complete the book because it started out a bit slow and I didn't have an immediate urge to pick it up whenever I'd put it down at first. However, once I read up to about page 150 I was hooked and flew through the rest of the book swiftly and easily. I became immersed into the characters (despite Hayley annoying me at times) and their relationships, so much so that I even shed a couple of tears when Even with those sad moments, I would say this book isn't as dark as Anderson's other reads. It deals with a serious issue, but compared to "Wintergirls" or perhaps even "Speak", I think the resilience that Hayley had and the up-and-down personality of her father made it "lighter" than Anderson's other novels.

While I enjoyed different scenes at all parts of the book, the ending has to be my favorite. Anderson concluded the story beautifully, managing to tie up the story satisfyingly enough that I closed it with a sad smile on my face. As I stated earlier, the beginning of the story was a bit slow which affected my rating since it wasn't what I had been hoping it would be at first, but as the story continued I found myself enjoying it more and more.

Upon completing the book, I can honestly say that it met my expectations. I was skeptical at first because I'd been hoping there would be more focus on the war Hayley's father had been involved in so I would be convinced of his severe PTSD, but the few short chapters told from his perspective provided that.

"'You're still alive!' I screamed. 'You have to try harder because we love you!'
Daddy fought a sob, reached for me. It looked like he had just limped off the plane, the band playing, thousands of hands clapping, mouths cheering, waves of tears raining down to wash away the years of heartache. I stepped toward him, ready to fly up into his arms so I could hug his neck and tell him that I missed him so much.
The snow underneath me crackled, crumbled, and then everything disappeared.
Until my father saved me."

To discuss the characters, I had also had mixed feelings about Hayley for quite a while. I admired her strength in dealing with her father, but at times she was unnecessarily rude or panicky. She isn't one of my favorite characters ever, but even so I think those rude/panicky moments proved how honest the story was. Just like my frustration with Hayley's father, it was agonizing that he would never accept the help offered to him and continually made things worse for himself, but it added to the overall honesty and genuineness of the characters. I ended up loving all the characters, despite my brief annoyances with them.

The one character I was never really annoyed with was Finn. I really liked Finn, and I loved Hayley's relationship with him. He was such a sweetheart and never really faltered from that. He had problems of his own just as all the characters did, but even with that he showed a lot of compassion for Hayley.

The straightforward way in which the issues in the story were told added so much depth to the characters and led me to strongly empathizing with them all. Not one of the characters was flawless. They all seemed genuine enough that I would believe they were real. By the end of the book, I was hanging on the edge with the characters as I hoped everything would turn out alright for all of them.

All-in-all, I highly enjoyed "The Impossible Knife of Memory". I couldn't bring myself to bring it the full 5 stars because I did have little problems with it and it did feel a bit slow at times, but even so I know it's a book I won't forget anytime soon. It was a solid and beautifully written read, and I'm extremely glad that I picked it up.
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,312 reviews51 followers
July 30, 2014
"A quick lesson.
There are two kinds of people in this world:
1. zombies
2. freaks
Only two. Anyone who tells you different is lying. That
person is a lying zombie. Do not listen to zombies. Run for
your freaking life."

Need a little flavour in your life? Then pick this beauty up. It's not your average contemporary read, it's something darker with a gorgeous backstory. It deals with a variety of subjects, including PTSD. You will end up crying and not understanding what the freak is going on with you and your feelings.

Words can't even explain my love for this book. It was so powerful and gorgeous and addicting, and one hell of a roller coaster ride. You'll end up crying and not knowing what to do with yourself. Laurie Halse Anderson is my favourite author, no doubt about it. The way she portrays her protagonist's voice is beautiful.

"My earbuds were in, but I wasn't playing music. I needed to hear the world
but didn't want the world to know I was listening."

This is about Hayley Kincain. She's a teenager who lives with her single depressed father, Andy, who is going through a tough time in his life. He has PTSD, and is beginning to show signs that he is too immature for his age. He's Hayley's father, and he's supposed to be taking care of Hayley, instead of her taking care of him, right? They used to be traveling around the US in a truck, but now they're back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend a real high school. Hayley meets Finn, a guy who obviously likes her but is hiding some secrets of his own. Will Andy end up changing for the good?

From the start, I was in love with this book. The plot was fast-paced, and because of the issues incorporated, everything ended up being 100% awesome. Anderson just had a masterpiece idea, and did it.

From page 1, I loved Hayley. She and Melinda are Laurie's best characters yet, and Hayley's voice really stood out to me. At first, she didn't know what to do with herself and her life.

As her relationship with Finn grew, her personality grew, too. Her badassness went to a whole other level and she really learned more about herself and what she deserves. Her love and caring for Andy was beautiful, and right.

Although Andy overreacted at times and wasn't who he was supposed to be, I loved him. He didn't take the role of responsibility very well, but by the end, after the incident, he became a whole other person. He became stronger, and that was all because of his outstanding daughter who took a voice.

I saved Finn for last because well, I loved him.

HE WAS MY TEENAGE HEARTTHROB! Just look at this quote which he spoke to Hayley: (spoken in a texting conversation between him and Hayley after their date)

"nxt to you
i didnt notice any stars

Oh gosh. *fans myself* It's so hot in here! Or is it just me?

The romance was just astonishing and it had a point. Some books just have romance for no reason, but the relationship between Hayley and Finn made sense and it made me squeal. I felt steam all the time and a gorgeous connection between them.

I never saw that ending coming. It surprised me, but it was amazing and made the book 10x better.

This book had everything that you're looking for in a perfect YA novel: romance, drama, mystery, feels, squeals, and issues. This gives you a variety of flavours, not only one in life.

Beautiful quotes:

"She dumped you," I said.
"Not yet." He put a 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." (p. 93)

"Then I'd see Finn in the hall, or I'd catch a glance of his profile out of the corner of my eye while we were driving to school, and he would turn to me and smile.
And I didn't want to be a hermit anymore." (p. 151)

"Until then we're going to keep making memories like this, moments when
we're the only two people in the whole world. And when we get scared or lonely
or confused, we'll pull out these memories and wrap them around us and they'll make us feel safe." He kissed me again. "And strong." (p. 391)
Profile Image for ATheReader- check my bio.
199 reviews59 followers
February 10, 2021
An update that I posted about this book summarizes my opinion of this book "It is not terrible ".

The Impossible Knife of Memory is about Hayley and her vet father and them trying to live a settled life in his home town and deal with his PTSD.

Now, I think this is an informational read. It showed me what it is like to live with a parent with PTSD and how it affects your life and the way that you act yourself. Anderson had a dad that was similar to Andy and I think that you can see that in this book. But it wasn't emotional. I didn't get sad, I mostly just got annoyed at the dad for the destructive behavior that he had that impacted Hayley's life.

This book was mostly just confusing to me. Hayley is constantly mad at everything and you really don't get to know her past surface level. She has these weird flashbacks to her childhood, which she blocked out for some reason, and she keeps talking about it ripping and gray fog coming in. I never understood any of the flashbacks and why she didn't remember her childhood. (And what was the ripping about?) She also has this look back into a limping girl dying because of a wall of fire? Which I don't know if she actually saw and if she did, how and why she saw it.

She also got mad at people for really strange reasons (which I guess makes sense off the fact that her dad wasn't there for her and she was angry at that) and she doesn't do work at school because.. because she doesn't want to? Hayley has a relationship with a guy named Finn who has a sister who is addicted to drugs, is good at math and swimming. The characters in this were mostly just underwhelming. Oh, and she has this friend named Gracie who is taking drugs out of a pillbox because her parents are getting divorced after her dad cheated on her mother repeatedly. Everyone was miserable and I felt nothing. So that is fun.

The world against everyone in this book:

The plot is was really unorganized and conflicted. The ending of this book was okay but I don't understand why Hayley got injured too.


Content warning: Suicidal behavior, alcoholism, drug use, and PTSD
I don't discourage you from reading this, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.
2.5 stars
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,164 followers
February 16, 2014
The Impossible Knife of Memory is impeccably told through the narration of Haley, a protagonist whose voice has just a touch of cynicism in it, thrown in with a scoop of sarcasm and a whole big bucket of survivalist instincts. Haley's father, a war veteran suffering from severe PTSD, is hardly equipped to take care of her, let alone keep a job. Nevertheless, he insists that Haley have a "normal" life, ending their years on the road while Haley learns to navigate the zombied existence of a high school teenager. Anderson's latest is not easy to read, however. Haley's relationship with her father is tenuous and fragile, a careful construct of one step forward just as quickly as two steps backward inevitably follow. Moreover, high school is no walk in the park for Haley. While she makes friends and snags Finn - an absolutely sweet, nerdy, and handsome swimmer - her schoolwork comes second to her father. As do her relationships, unfortunately.

The Impossible Knife of Memory is a beautifully written tale of growing up and, most importantly, facing the harsh realities of life even when we need to see the world through rose-tinted glasses. I did find myself disappointed by the ending of this novel, which wrapped up events a little too neatly for my liking. Still, I can't not love a book that contains swoon-worthy math pick-up lines, exemplary teenage driving, and features a genuine college application process (complete with college visits AND the essay prompts for the 2013-2014 application year!). And, if you needed any more motivation to read this novel: it's written by Laurie Halse Anderson. You simply cannot go wrong with her.
Profile Image for Yna from Books and Boybands.
747 reviews347 followers
December 26, 2020
There are two kinds of people in this world:
1. zombies
2. freaks.
Only two. Anyone who tells you different is lying. That person is a lying zombie. Do not listen to zombies. Run for your freaking life.
Another lesson: everyone is born a freak.
Profile Image for Gillian.
458 reviews1,080 followers
December 28, 2013

Originally posted at Writer of Wrongs

I read Speak somewhere around the age of twelve or thirteen. You could argue I was too young for it (you'd be wrong), but it left the kind of impression on me that never goes away. It was full of pain, full of confusion, and full of smarts. It spoke to me in a way that few books ever did, and since the day I finished it, I've considered Anderson to be one of the finest writers of voice and feels around.

It's been a decade or so since I first read Speak. To say my taste at age twelve was less than stellar would be an understatement. What if I was completely wrong about it, and only loved it because I was young, uncultured, and uneducated in the ways of YA? Would I love The Impossible Knife of Memory as much? Was it possible for a narrator to speak to my soul as directly as Melinda Sordino did? Was I as wrong about Speak as I was jelly sandals? (God, why did I ever want jelly sandals?)

No. I wasn't wrong. Laurie Halse Anderson, you can have all my money. I'll buy all your books. Just stop hurting me with your words (except don't, because they're sublime). The Impossible Knife of Memory (TIKoM from here on out) is the kind of book that makes you laugh so hard you cry, but you're already crying because you're feeling so much, which makes you laugh because you sound like an idiot when you cry, and that makes you cry because who wants to be an idiot. Basically, I was feeling a whole bunch of things--swoons, sads, and happies. All at once.

And most of that is because of our main girl Hayley. Hayley. This girl is tough, hilarious, snarky, and I want her to be my best friend. Seriously. She's a feminist, she casually games and reads manga, she's literally too cool for school, she's loud and outspoken, and she's hiding a world of hurt and insecurities. We first meet her in detention, where she's been sent because she corrected her teacher. Did you know I once got in trouble for correcting my teacher? She got the years of Queen Elizabeth II's reign wrong. Obviously I had to intervene for the good of studentkind, and all that.

It clearly didn't take me long to relate to Hayley.

Of course, she's not exactly like me, but she's a girl I want to know. Actually, I feel like I do know her. She's too smart for her own good, and as an outsider--home-schooled by her truck-driving dad for all of middle school and most of high school--she has a unique (and devastatingly hilarious) perspective on the world of teenagers. She's finally attending a traditional high school for her senior year. She's smarter than everyone around her. She wants to fit in. She hates everyone. They're zombies. She just doesn't get it. She doesn't want to get it.

Of course, there's an ADORABLE ADORABLE ADORABLE love interest there to take an ice pick to Hayley the Snow Queen's walls. Finn. Finn. He makes math puns. He knows nothing about cars. He's afraid of heights. Hayley fascinates him but also scares the shit out of him.

 He's got issues of his own, and he's just as reticent as Hayley, master of the Bitchface, to talk bout them.He's just as quick as Hayley, and if you don't melt and swoon and squeal listening to them banter, you are wrong. I had no idea Anderson could bring the swoons like this. Speak, understandably so, was a low-romance zone, but TKoM is very much a love story between two intelligent teenagers--too intelligent for their own good, really--who are trying to figure out the shitty mess their parents have left them in. Finn tries to do it with charm and a smile. Hayley does it with snark and spite. Neither approach works, and it's wonderful to watch them figure each other out.

This ship may be glorious and swoony, but it was made so by the flaws and realism of the characters. Their dates are full of sweet and nervous awkward silences. Hayley's flirting method is, basically, to be super mean, and she doesn't know how to not do that (HI SOUL MATE, you obviously attended the Gillian School of Flirting, where we learn to accidentally make men cry!). It's so cuuuuute.

While the romance was the aspect that truly won my heart, the plot of TKoM is very evenly balanced. Anderson gives all the major relationships due focus, including Hayley's best friend, Gracie (yay for passing the Bechdel test! I could have used more Gracie, though) but especially Hayley's father, Andy.

*puts on feels armor*

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Okay. Okay. This relationship, you guys. It hurts so much. Memory is a major theme in this novel (obviously. Read the title, clever clogs), and both Andy, a PTSD-suffering war veteran, and Hayley, determined to forget the painful aspects of her past, struggle with it. Neither wants to remember, but remembering sneaks up on them and clobbers them hard when they're least prepared for it. And living every second of the day repressing feelings and faking functionality... well, it't not the healthiest way to live, and the two of them are barely functioning.


Andy vacillates wildly between completely present and completely gone. He's a loose cannon, he's Hayley's responsibility, and he's coming apart at the seams.

It's heartbreaking. It's gorgeous. It made me cry, and it made me want to shake Andy, but of course it's not that simple. Anderson even writes a few small passages from his point of view, of the atrocities he saw in the war, and I'd venture to say they contain some the best prose I've read... well, ever. I mean, the writing. We need to talk about the writing.

That's really all I can say about it. It's so brilliant, so eloquent, so sharp and heartbreaking and funny, that I don't dare sully it with my own words. I gaped at the page a lot in awe. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to write down my favorite passages, but I was too engrossed in the book. Rest assured, TKoM is eminently quotable.

I would have liked a bit more resolution both with Gracie and Trish, and I even wanted more knowledge of what was going on with Andy--he's so lost and so damaged it's a little difficult to understand his precise psychology. But in a way, I understood that apprach. We only see the effects of something, not the root of it. Hayley's not in her father's head; in fact, she's so lost in her own that she can only see that he's falling apart, that he's lashing out and damaging her life and his, and she doesn't know how or why.

God, I love this book. I became nearly sick with feelings. I was
entirely inside Hayley's mind, I was laughing like a total lunatic at nearly every word she said, swooning over Finn, crying over Andy. You know I'm mostly a genre fiction reader. I like explosions, dragons, space ships, handsome princes in disguise.
But Laurie Halse Anderson's newest book is so good it doesn't even need dragons. It's got heart.

Here are some tissues. Go read this book.
Profile Image for Megan Heisler.
24 reviews3 followers
February 22, 2018
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson was not your typical teenage drama. Its combination of teenage romance and trauma was done just right that neither aspect was done so over-the-top that it became cheesy or depressing. I was invested in these characters and how their lives were going to play out, so much so, that I read over 150 pages in a 24 hour period. The end was not disappointing and the suspense surrounding Hayley's father's life hanging in the balance and her insurmountable loyalty to his well-being made it extremely real and heartfelt. This book definitely helped me as a teacher understand that sometimes students have a lot more going on at home than we know, and that although we can't help them all, we can try to understand them and let them know we are there.
Profile Image for Rissa.
1,401 reviews48 followers
April 20, 2018
The impossible knife of memory 3⭐️
Beautifully haunting.
Profile Image for Shelley.
5,164 reviews458 followers
July 2, 2015
*Genre* Young-Adult Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
*Rating* 4.0

*My Thoughts*

Laurie Halse Anderson is a writer who I can always count on to make me think, make me hurt, make me feel things I don't want to, and make smile like a goof ball with her patented sarcasm and humorous characters. The Impossible Knife of Memory hits a bit close to home for me as I am also a veteran who experiences very strange side effects from PTSD. Yes, folks, women do suffer from PTSD just like men! This is a story that will make you cry, make you laugh, and make you seriously think about the veterans of this country who are in the same boat as Hayley's father.

"There are two kinds of people in this world:
1. zombies
2. freaks.
Only two. Anyone who tells you different is lying. That person is a lying zombie. Do not listen to zombies. Run for your freaking life.
Another lesson: everyone is born a freak.

*Full Review Posted @ Gizmos Reviews July 2, 2015


Published January 7th 2014 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books928 followers
January 25, 2014
Rated YA-5.

If you've never read a Laurie Halse Anderson book before (if that's possible), this is as good as any at showing you what LHA does best when she writes YA books. She tackles social ills (in this case, post-traumatic stress disorder), places it in a familiar setting (in this case, high school), and still plays narrative aces (in this case, a great read).

Hayley Rose plays a stranger in a strange land at school and a pilgrim in an all-too-familiar land at home. Her dad, a decorated veteran of Iraq, cannot keep a job due to PTSD. He's bedeviled by visions, nightmares, and fears -- not to mention alcohol, weed, and drugs. Readers will get sucked up in her story as she negotiates the usual high school scenes and the less usual (in her case) domestic ones.

Luckily, the tense moments are lightened with a romantic interest (guy named Finn) who has a great sense of humor. It's perfect yin to Hayley's yang. Her humor's not bad, either, only it's gallows humor as a rule. Dark. Cynical. A cover, of course.

The narrative arc is complicated by Dad's old girlfriend, an alcoholic who re-enters the picture and reignites Hayley's ire. Meanwhile, Finn learns this isn't your ordinary run-of-the-mill girlfriend he's dealing with. Can he hang with her, through thick and, more often, thin?

Fast-paced, the plot runs at a good clip. It's helped by the first-person voice of Hayley, whose characterization is stellar. As mentioned before, there's a vein of humor in the book, and the wit is complimented with some nice intellectual touches. Thanks to Dad, for instance, Hayley knows her history. She happens to know more than her history teacher, even. As you might imagine, her quips don't go over big in class.

That said, LHA is overall sympathetic to the teaching crowd. What's more, she's penned a book that can actually be read by 7th and 8th graders. Sure, mature themes and a bit of language are there, but by today's YA standards, it's mild. When all's said and done, another winner for Anderson.
Profile Image for Paula Weston.
Author 8 books851 followers
January 14, 2014
I inhaled this book. It's gritty, relevant, heartbreaking and life-affirming.

This is a story of broken people and broken families - and yet is full of love, compassion and hope, but without a whiff of sentimentality.

I appreciated that while Hayley is a strong, smart girl, she's still very much a teenager and she reacts and behaves in ways that feel true to her experiences and age.

The fractured relationship with her father is wrenching and, at times, frightening. It's another glimpse of the legacy of war on soldiers returning home, and the far-reaching impacts and implications for those in their lives.

There's so much scope for tension here, and there were even darker places this story could have gone. I'm grateful to Laurie Halse Anderson for not taking us there.

And I liked that, as we learn more about all the characters, we see they're all a little broken in their own ways - which makes their courage and capacity to love all that more moving. I teared up a couple of times in the last quarter of this book.

This is a powerful and moving read. Highly recommended.
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