Title: The Impossible Knife of Memory
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Buy This Book: Book Depository
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.(Goodreads summary.)
I have loved Laurie Halse Anderson's books from the moment I read Speak for the first time. When I saw her latest book up on Edelweiss, I just had to put in a request and I squealed with delight when it was accepted. So you can imagine how upset I am that I didn't end up liking this book all that much. It had it's moments, but overall I thought it was really disappointing. It has brilliant ratings on Goodreads, so I kind of feel like the odd one out here.
The book started off a bit shaky for me because the main character, Hayley, felt a little too forced. She's supposed to be a teenager but instead of being relatable, she seems like a teenager written by someone who has never met a teenager before. This was a huge shock to me because I have never felt this with any of the authors other books. Hayley refers to people as zombies or freaks constantly and it just seemed like something my eleven year old cousin would do, not someone of Hayley's age. Then there was the text speak, which was hideous and made my head hurt. I'm twenty-two now but back when I was a teenager I did shorten my texts, a little but they were decipherable, and all the teenagers I know now are the same. When you're reading a young adult book about young adults, you want them to seem like, act like or resemble an actual young adult.
This book focuses on Hayley, who has returned to her grandmother's house with her father after years on the road together. Her father has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and has suffered with PTSD for so long now it's hard for Haley to remember a time when things were different. Her reality is that her father drinks to drown out the memories, that he lashes out and then forgets it ever happened. This is supposed to be a fresh start but it's anything but. Hayley meets Finn at school, and here comes our love interest who just seems to fall a bit short for me.
The romance in this, for me, just didn't work at all. Finn and Hayley never really communicate, barely having one real and honest conversation. Most of the time they spend together is spent in a weird, uncomfortable silence. Finn gets a job and doesn't even bother to inform her. The whole relationship dynamic was so off and so dysfunctional. I wasn't rooting for them, they clearly aren't meant to be in a relationship with one another. I just couldn't root for them or feel like they were a good match, they didn't seem to help each other at all.
I was really interested in reading a YA book that focused on PTSD, it's not something you see a lot in YA fiction. I really did sympathise with Hayley at times, because of the things she had to deal with. But, most of the time, I really wanted to slap her because she was absolutely infuriating. She knows her father has issues, he's constantly drinking and getting worse as time goes on. But instead of realising that this is an issue that needs to be addressed, she spends most of the book being angry at a completely different person who acted like a sane, rational human being.
The ending was what really ruined the whole book for me. It was a little too far fetched and added in a lot of unnecessary drama and made it all seem very melodramatic. For me, that whole ending took the focus away from the real issue, which was PTSD. And then after that it ends in such a ridiculous and sickly sweet way that I kind of wanted to vomit.
Hayley's character felt very forced, like the author wasn't really aware how teenagers act. Finn and Hayley were too dysfunctional as a couple and I couldn't root for them or understand the pairing. The over the top, melodramatic ending took the focus away from the real issue of PTSD.
*I received a copy of this novel from the author/publisher/publicist via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review and received no monetary compensation for this review.