The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Published by: Scholastic Press
I’ve heard a lot about this author in the past, and I thought it was about time I read something by her. Everyone was hauling her latest book at BEA/BookCon this year, so it seemed like the perfect time. Now, everybody loves Speak and Wintergirls best, but this was one of the only LHA books my library had, so why not go for one that nobody talks about! I have to say I was a little underwhelmed. I enjoyed the writing style, but the story wasn’t was I was expecting int he slightest. From the blurb it sounded like a mystery/ thriller but instead I got something completely different.
PLOT: Hayley was previously homeschooled by her father. They would take road trips around the country, but now he’s decided to settle down in one place – their first home – and Hayley has to go to regular school with the kids she knew when she was a lot younger. Everything seems normal, but Hayley is failing math and she has to take care of her father who’s actually suffering from PTSD. She’s got blatant issues with her dad’s previous girlfriend Trish and she’s finding it hard adjusting. Also, there’s a boy on the scene, adding even more stress to her life.
It sounds pretty simple, and for the most part it is. There isn’t anything particularly outrageous happening outside of Hayley’s family that pushes the plot forward, it’s just about her dealing with her life. In that way it’s very realistic, but it also makes for a very slow paced story. Everything about this book is intense. Spliced throughout the regular narrative are bits of memory from Hayley’s childhood and sometimes even really imagery-focused memories from her father’s POV of the war.
There’s not much to dislike about The Impossible Knife of Memory apart from maybe Finn, the love interest. He was cute and banterful, but he was way too persistent and wouldn’t take o for an answer, so I felt quite uncomfortable reading about his advances. It’s like he was simultaneously really concerned about Hayley but also disregarding her problems so he could get what he wanted. Also, things go from bad to worse in Hayley’s life, and it’s a little depressing. I don’t know if that’s a trend of this author’s writing, but for me I found it hard to read when I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.
I’m a big fan of happy endings, and The Impossible Knife of Memory didn’t really have one. Yes, things are resolved, but I wouldn’t call it a happy ending, and I’m not entirely sure there was character development. It was more of suggested character development in the family’s future. In a weird way it felt like a super intense YA version of a Jacqueline Wilson novel, and that’s the only way I can describe it.
I did enjoy the writing style though, even if I didn’t like the characters. Maybe I just need to keep reading LHA’s books until I find one I really like. If you’re a fan of the author then go ahead and add this one to your TBR, but if, like me, you haven’t read anything by her, then maybe go for Speak or Wintergirls because I’m sure there’s a reason they’re popular and this one isn’t really talked about.