Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory
Laurie Halse Anderson
Series: None
Released: January 7th, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Rating: 2 stars
Word Rating: Woe is me
Reviewed by: Mel

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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 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.

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.


  1. I know this books focus is on post traumatic stress disorder but what I focused on while reading this story is the display of screwed up parenting from all the main teen characters. It's depressing and disheartening that a lot of the time when you read YA literature that all the good and excellent parenting are few and far between. I guess I'm looking for less books in YA where kids are constantly raising themselves.

  2. Damn, I had no idea this book was getting poor ratings until now - and I just ordered it last week. Hopefully I'll enjoy it a bit more. Great review!


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