Book review: The Impossible Knife of Memory

Title: The Impossible Knife of MemoryImage

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: YA contemporary

Length: 391 pages

Published by: Text Publishing

Source: borrowed from school library


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.

So my school library is awesome as usual, in allowing me to have this book two weeks past the due date. I REALLY wanted to read it because 1) Laurie Halse Anderson is kind of a big name and 2) it looked good. Plus, YA contemporary is cool.



Let’s start with the awesome things.

Awesome thing numero uno – our main character, Hayley, rocks. Other reviews will write about how snarky she is, and some people might not like that (it’s true she comes off as a bit abrasive) but I loved her! She’s witty in this really bitchy way, but also hilarious. The writing is easy to read and fast, and there’s plenty of stuff to break up the darkness of the topic matter.

Awesome thing numero duo (??) – sorry for my shocking counting. This is why I dropped maths. Anyway! Finn! Finn is great! He’s funny and he brings a lightness to Hayley’s snark. He’s basically adorkable. LESS awesome that he dropped out of it quite a bit towards the end, though.

Awesome thing numero three, I’m giving up with the other numbers – PTSD is not often dealt with in YA books. I’ll get to my complaints about it in a minute, but let’s just say that we need to talk about things like this. We can’t shove them under a rug. Talking about issues in YA books is a great way to get them talked about OUTSIDE of them, and PTSD is one of those things.

Not so awesome things (let’s change to dot points because I’m lazy): 

– Changing of tone. It was a bit all over the place. It was like:


Well, okay, not so much angst as legitimate, awful problems. But I still would have liked more consistency.

– The pacing. It was a bit slow (and quite a long book for a contemporary). The short chapters broke this up a bit, though.

– The emotion just wasn’t there for me. I’m sure other people will bawl their eyes out, but I’m not a particularly bawl-your-eyes-out kind of person. I prefer to keep my eyes inside my head except when reading The Fault in Our Stars and watching the cute bits of How I Met Your Mother. It didn’t affect me as much as I wanted to, because it felt like the PTSD sections were from a distance.

– The flashbacks. They didn’t move the story forward, they weren’t explained well, I didn’t like them.

And back to the good bits for a second, because I forgot one. 

The ending!!! Not the ending ending (it felt too resolved for my tastes) but right before that. I won’t give anything away but it was SO TENSE, and just…TENSION. SO MUCH OF IT. And that was my favourite part of the book, because everything came to a point where something had to happen. I was surprised about what actually DID happen, but my lips are sealed. You should read it and find out for yourself 🙂

Laurie Halse Anderson is a fantastic storyteller, and The Impossible Knife of Memory is a story that finishes on a knife-edge of family and hope and yesterdays. Definitely recommend.

Rating: 4/5 Wonderkitties (these Wonderkitties are different sizes in every review. Shows you how professional I am. Oh well)




7 thoughts on “Book review: The Impossible Knife of Memory

  1. I’ve been wondering about this one because I keep hearing about it. It’s true what you say about the MC because I have heard some people say they didn’t get off on the right foot with her because of her bitchy tendencies but if you say it’s funny than it probably is in all honesty! I like bitchy humour.
    Lovely Review 🙂

  2. Ha! YES. This sums up my feelings pretty much too. I didn’t cry per se, but I was really emotionally involved. I mean, gosh, sometimes with Hayley and her dad…I was freaking out. But I think it kind of lost a star from me because I wasn’t wholly connected to Hayley or anything. Some of her decisions sucked. And the PTSD flashbacks confused me. It’s my first Anderson read, though, and I had noooo idea she was a big name! Where have I been? Under a rock? Gosh. I must remedy this and read more from her. 😉

    • Yeah, me saying I wasn’t emotionally involved was probably not the right wording – mostly I just didn’t bawl my eyes out if you know what I mean. You have been under a rock! A whole imprint was named after her novel Speak 🙂 My copies of Anna and the French Kiss and Lola are both from Speak, I think. (also, I won a hardcover of this from Ransom Reads, so that’s so exciting!!!).

  3. Pingback: What Happened This Week: Embalming, Fangirling and Studying | The Loony Teen Writer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s